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Eric Carlson
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SFO confirms Airbus bribe probe

The UK Serious Fraud Office said Monday it has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery, and corruption in the civil aviation business of Airbus Group.

The SFO issued a short statement saying “the allegations relate to irregularities concerning third party consultants.”

In April, the UK Export Finance agency suspended funding for Airbus because of a lack of transparency with third-party payments. France and Germany also suspended export funding.

Airbus’s civilian division is based in Blagnac, France. It has production facilities in France, Germany, Spain, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It has about 74,000 employees.

In 2012, the SFO said it was investigating possible bribes in Saudi Arabia by a UK-based company owned by Airbus’s military division.

The military division was formerly known as European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., or EADS.

A former employee of the EADS company, GPT Special Project Management Ltd., said middlemen acting for GPT gave Saudi officials cars, jewellery, and cash to win a £2 billion ($2.6 billion) communications contract.

Lieutenant Colonel Ian Foxley claimed GPT fired him after he raised concerns about the possibility of bribes.

Prosecutors in Munich confirmed in 2014 that Airbus’s miliary division was under investigation for bribery connected with border security contracts in Romania and Saudi Arabia.

The border contracts were worth $3.7 billion.

The SFO said Monday it opened the investigation into Airbus’s civilian business in July. Airbus reported the probe Sunday.

The SFO said it couldn’t provide further information.

The agency asked anyone with information about Airbus to use a confidential reporting hotline here.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.

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