Airbus agrees to pay record settlement in bribery investigation

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Airbus has agreed to pay a fine of €3.6bn (£3bn) to settle a criminal investigation for bribery.

Some €991m (£833m) of the fine will be paid in the UK following a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

The record settlement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), comes after the company was accused of using middlemen to engage in bribery.

It comes almost four years after the SFO began investigating the company over allegations that it had used external consultants to bribe customers to buy its civilian and military aircraft.

The charges relate to the sale of military transporters to the Ghanaian government, and of commercial aircraft to six Asian airlines.

Airbus was accused of failing to prevent bribery in relation to the sale of aircraft to Air Asia and Air Asia X; Sri Lankan Airline; Trans Asia Airlines, a Taiwanese private company; and Garuda and Citylink Garuda.

In a simultaneous global settlement involving the UK, French and US authorities, criminal proceedings are considered to have been opened and immediately suspended.

The UK fine is more than the total collected from previous DPAs and three times the fines revenue collected in the UK criminal justice system in 2018.

In her judgement, Dame Victoria Sharp said: “The seriousness of the criminality in this case hardly needs to be spelled out. As is acknowledged on all sides, it was grave. The conduct took place over many years.

“It is no exaggeration to describe the investigation it gave rise to as worldwide, extending into every continent in which Airbus operates.

“The number of countries subject to intense criminal investigation by the various agencies, and the scale and scope of the wrongdoing disclosed in the Statement of Facts demonstrate that bribery was to the extent indicated, endemic in two core business areas within Airbus.”

An Airbus lawyer said the settlements “draw a clear line under the investigation and under the grave historic practices”.

Serious Fraud Office director Lisa Osofsky told Sky News after the hearing: “The scale of the bribery was large and that’s why we’ve got the big fines.

“All authorities made clear in open court today that we’re all still conducting and continuing investigations, so nobody gets off scot-free.”

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