France joins UK in Airbus probe
LONDON: French authorities joined the United Kingdom in a corruption probe of Airbus Group SE centred on allegations of fraudulent practices related to selling planes and arranging aircraft financing.
The probe by the Parquet National Financier followed steps by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office to look into possible fraud, bribery and corruption in Airbus’s civil aviation business related to third-party consultants, said the firm.
The two authorities would coordinate with one another, said Airbus.
Airbus, which was cooperating fully, had said it dropped the questionable middlemen and expected suspended financing guarantees to be restored. The investigations, which may last for years, add to its challenges as the company tries to expand overseas and counter slowing demand for new planes. An unfavorable outcome could also damage its reputation and lead to significant fines.
Last year, Airbus flagged to UK regulators and the European Export Credit Agencies “misstatements and omissions” involving outside contractors in some export-financing applications, which it found through an internal probe.
Credit agencies, including UK Export Finance, suspended some of the backstop financing the firm uses to help sell commercial aircraft. Airbus’s failure to disclose the use of third parties was one of the factors in the UK’s inquiry.
The UK credit agency is one of several in Europe that have provided financing for the company’s overseas sales. Airbus builds wings in the UK and assembles aircraft in countries including France and Germany.
Firms often use intermediaries with local connections to help establish a presence in new markets, where setting up local offices can take years. The practice isn’t illegal, but it can complicate oversight. Bloomberg
The investigations add to Airbus’s challenges as it tries to expand overseas and counter slowing demand for new planes.