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SFO arrests four Airbus employees in Saudi Arabia bribe probe

Airbus Group NV said Wednesday the UK Serious Fraud Office questioned some of its employees as part of an investigation into possible corruption at a subsidiary.

“Airbus Group understands that four former and current employees were recently interviewed — along with [Ministry of Defense] officials — as part of a wide ranging SFO investigation into subsidiary GPT,” an Airbus spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg.

The SFO didn’t identify Airbus. It said in a statement that a search warrant was executed “and a number of arrests have been made.”

Airbus was formerly known as European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., or EADS.

Two years ago, the SFO launched an investigation after a former employee of Britain-based GPT Special Project Management Ltd reportedly said the company gave Saudi Arabian officials cars, jewellery, and cash to win a £2 billion communications contract.

Lieutenant Colonel Ian Foxley, the GPT whistlebower, claimed he was fired after raising concerns about the possibility of bribes changing hands.

GPT’s £2 billion ($3.4 billion) contract was for an upgrade to the satellite and intranet systems of the Saudi National Guard, a force of about 125,000 that protects the royal family.

Foxley reportedly told the SFO that Saudi officials were given the gifts by middlemen.

In August 2012, the SFO released a statement that said: “The Director of the Serious Fraud Office has decided to open a criminal investigation into allegations concerning GPT and aspects of the conduct of their business in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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