UPDATE – Airbus has reached a settlement with the French Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) to avoid prosecution and a potential substantial fine in two corruption cases. The cases involve the acquisition of civil aircraft, helicopters, and satellites by Libya and Kazakhstan in 2007 and 2009/2010 respectively. Airbus settles old corruption cases with French prosecutor.
Airbus confirmed the agreement to French and international media earlier this week. On November 30, a court in Paris approved the so-called public interest judicial convention (CJIP), which requires the company to pay a €15.8 million fine.
The fine is an extension to the settlement that the airframer reached in January 2020, as part of a much-wider bribery case. Back then, Airbus paid €3.598 billion to settle a bribery case that covered 2008 to 2015. It paid €2.083 billion to PNF, €984 million to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, €526 million to the US Department of Justice, and €9 million to the Department of State.
Although Airbus said in 2020 that the settlement was in no way an admission of liability, it was accused of bribery practices through its Strategy and Marketing Organization (SMO). The US Department of Justice said that “Airbus, through its employees, executives, and agents, engaged in and facilitated a scheme to offer and pay bribes to decision-makers and other influencers, including to foreign officials in multiple counties, in order to obtain improper business advantages and to win business from both privately owned enterprises and entities that were state-owned and state-controlled.” The bribery included deals for civil aircraft in countries like China, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia.
The latest settlements center around deals in which former French President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have been involved. He reportedly received financial support for his 2007 campaign from Libya’s ruler Muammar Gaddafi. That same year, Libyan Arab Airlines placed an order for fifteen aircraft with Airbus, including seven A320ceo’s, four A330-200s, and four A350-800s, a model that was never built. The A320s and A330s are still part of the fleet today. An Airbus executive paid €2.0 million to an intermediary. Sarkozy has denied all accusations in this case.
The second settlement includes the payment of at least €8.8 million for contracts from the Kazakh government in 2009 and 2010. The contracts covered 45 Eurocopter helicopters and two satellites, all built by companies that were back then part of the EADS group that has become Airbus. Also included is a contract for trains.
The accusations of bribery led to a full clear out of Airbus’s top management that might have been aware or connected in some sort or another with obscure practices. This included Tom Enders (Group Chairman and previously with EADS and Airbus Group), former SVP Strategy and Future Programmes, Kiran Rao, CFO Harald Wilhelm, and many others at lower levels. Under Guillaume Faury and a new Supervisory Board, Airbus has implemented strict compliance programs to ensure that misconduct can not happen again.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.