Airbus has entered deferred prosecution arrangements with French, UK and US authorities as part of its €3.6 billion settlement of long-running investigation into allegations of corruption.
The company will pay nearly €2.1 billion under a French agreement with the Parquet National Financier, plus €991 million to the UK authorities, and €526 million to US counterparts.
As part of the arrangement Airbus has agreed to “full co-operation” with law enforcement partners in “any future investigations and prosecutions”, says the Serious Fraud Office.
“The [fraud] investigation remains active and the position in relation to individuals is being considered,” it warns.
Deferred prosecution – which applies only to organisations, rather than individuals – allow prosecution for economic crimes to be conditionally suspended for a fixed period.
“If the company does not honour the conditions of the [arrangement] the prosecution may resume,” adds the Serious Fraud Office, which started investigating Airbus in 2016 over allegations of bribery by external consultants.
Similar probes were subsequently opened by French and US authorities.
The Office says its case centred on five counts of failure to prevent bribery within both the commercial aircraft and defence divisions of Airbus, concerning activity in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Ghana during 2011-15.
Its French counterpart concentrated its inquiries on several other countries including the United Arab Emirates, China, South Korea, Nepal, India, Taiwan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Japan, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, and Kuwait.
The Serious Fraud Office states that the penalty reflects the “gravity of the conduct” but also takes into account Airbus’s extensive co-operation and its efforts to reinforce compliance.
Airbus says the French and UK agreements do not amount to an admission of liability, and that both involve a three-year suspension of prosecution. The company states that it is “committed” to complying with the terms of the deferred prosecution arrangements over the period.
It states that the French agreement requires Airbus to submit its compliance programme to audit by the French anti-corruption agency AFA. Given this monitoring, there will be no requirement for similar measures in the UK.
Airbus has also reached a three-year deferral pact with the US Department of Justice, and no independent compliance monitor will be imposed. It has also agreed to enter a consent arrangement with the Department of State which settles all civil violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and through which Airbus will retain an independent export-control compliance officer.