French authorities join UK in Airbus corruption probe

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French authorities have joined Britain’s Serious Fraud Office to investigate allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the passenger jet business of Airbus, the European aerospace and defence group.
The UK’s SFO in August launched its own inquiry into Airbus’ use of third party consultants to win international aircraft orders, after the company admitted it had failed to notify export credit authorities about these agents on certain deals. The company had alerted authorities in April to the errors after an internal review of compliance.

Airbus said on Thursday evening that France’s Parquet National Financier , had “also opened a preliminary investigation into the same subject and that the two authorities will act in coordination going forward”.

The company said it would cooperate fully with both authorities.

Export credit agencies in the UK, France and Germany all suspended financing of Airbus deals after the disclosures. Mr Enders told the Financial Times in an interview last month that Airbus would seriously consider striking a settlement deal with regulators if they chose to offer that option.

Companies are facing increased scrutiny over the use of third party agents to strike deals. Rolls-Royce recently agreed to pay a £671m fine to regulators in the UK, US and Brazil after admitting a string of bribery and corruption charges. In return it will not be prosecuted as long as it meets certain conditions and tightens up its governance practices.

The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK’s Bribery Act demand high levels of risk-based due diligence, which is both costly and often difficult, when using intermediaries to do business on a company’s behalf. As a result, many companies have radically reduced the number of agents used to avoid the risks they pose.

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