France agrees to end Airbus corruption probe in £3bn deal

A French court has approved an agreement with Airbus that would see the plane maker pay up to £3 billion to end years of corruption investigations by three countries.

Courts in the US and the UK are still considering their own sides of the deal with the company as part of an unusually large international investigation.

French national financial prosecutor Jean-Francois Bohnert said Airbus had “acknowledged acts of corruption” in negotiating the deal.

British and French authorities are investigating alleged fraud and bribery related to Airbus’s use of outside consultants to sell planes.

US authorities are investigating Airbus’s compliance with American arms trafficking regulations.

Jean Francois Bohnert
Jean-Francois Bohnert (Michel Euler/AP)

The settlement was among the biggest ever in France and the UK in a company corruption case.

While costly, the settlement could allow Airbus to move on from a period that damaged its reputation and led to management and policy changes.

Mr Bohnert said former executives, including ex-chief executive Tom Enders, could still face eventual trial in a separate but related French investigation into wrongdoing by individuals.

Friday’s ruling only concerned Airbus as a company.

Airbus said earlier in the week that it had put aside 3.6 billion euros (£3 billion) to cover the costs of the fine.

France would get 2.1 billion euros (£1.7 billion) of that sum, the UK would get the equivalent of 983 million euros (£826 million) and the US 530 million euros (£445 million).

French prosecutors said the agreement was unprecedented because of its scale and the fact that it had been arranged with three countries.

Investigators gathered 30 million documents and conducted searches or interviews in 20 countries, including of current and former executives and employees.

The French financial prosecutor’s office and British Serious Fraud Office started investigating in 2016, and the US Department of Justice joined in 2018.

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