Airbus Group SE said Thursday that French investigators have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery, and corruption in the company’s civil aviation business.
France’s financial crimes investigator — the Parquet National Financier — is investigating the same allegations already being probed by the UK Serious Fraud Office.
Toulouse, France-based Airbus said it will “cooperate fully with both authorities.”
The SFO confirmed in August last year that it had opened a criminal bribery and corruption investigation into Airbus Group.
The SFO said “the allegations relate to irregularities concerning third party consultants.”
In April 2016, 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.
In 2016, Airbus Group generated revenues of €67 billion with a workforce of around 134,000.
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 unit said middlemen gave Saudi officials cars, jewellery, and cash to win a £2 billion ($2.6 billion) communications contract.
Prosecutors in Munich, Germany 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.
Earlier this year, Airbus’ competitor Rolls-Royce PLC reached agreements with prosecutors in the UK, the United States, and Brazil to settle bribery allegations. The company agreed to pay about $809 million for the global resolution.
* * *
Here’s the full statement from Airbus Group of March 16, 2017:
Airbus (stock exchange symbol: AIR) announced on 7 August 2016 that the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had opened an investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the civil aviation business of Airbus Group relating to irregularities concerning third party consultants.
Airbus has now been informed that the French authorities, the Parquet National Financier, had also opened a preliminary investigation into the same subject and that the two authorities will act in coordination going forward.
Airbus will cooperate fully with both authorities.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.