In Depth

Airbus fined record £3bn over ‘endemic’ bribery scheme

Crimes include payments to politicians and airline executives to secure sales

Airbus has agreed to pay £3bn in fines after an investigation found it ran a program of “endemic” bribery involving top executives and public officials.

According to The Guardian, Europe’s largest aerospace multinational admitted to five counts of failing to prevent bribery. 

The paper reports that it was found to have used “a network of secret agents to pay large-scale backhanders to officials in foreign countries to land high-value contracts”.

Airbus agreed to pay France €2.08bn (£1.7bn) and the US €525m (£442m) to bring to a close a four-year investigation into bribery, City A.M. reports. It was also ordered to pay a €983m (£827m) fine in the UK.

The probe saw Airbus hand over 30m documents, with investigators finding malpractice in more than a dozen international markets. The Financial Times reports that payments were often made through shell companies, “working for an autonomous strategy and marketing unit once described by former chief executive Tom Enders as ‘bullshit castle’”.

The fine breaks the previous record of £2bn paid by Brazilian engineering group Odebrecht to end bribery investigations. It will be paid through a “deferred prosecution agreement”, which effectively acts as a suspended sentence whereby Airbus avoids any criminal convictions.

“The deal, effectively a corporate plea bargain, means Airbus has avoided criminal prosecution that would have risked it being barred from public contracts in the United States and European Union - a massive blow for a major defense and space supplier,” Reuters reports.

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Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury, who was appointed last April, said the settlements drew a line under the issue and would allow the company “to move forward and further grow in a sustainable and responsible way”.

“Airbus will remain under surveillance by authorities for three years and any violation could result in prosecution,” the FT notes. ”A conviction would result in Airbus being banned from bidding for government contracts in several countries.”

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