Airbus, Europe’s largest aerospace multinational, appears to be facing years of investigation by French and UK authorities amid allegations of corruption over jet sales. The investigation began after Airbus drew the attention of regulators to inaccurate declarations it had made to the export credit finance agency over payments to sales agents.
According to the Guardian newspaper, evidence including hundreds of pages of leaked bank records, internal memos and financial statements reveal that two firms secretly controlled by Airbus engaged in transactions involving €19 million (£16.7 million), a large part of which was then routed to an unknown company via a tax haven. When asked, Airbus was unable to say who had received the money, nor why its control of the two companies had been concealed.
In 2007, Eolia, a Maltese company that retrofits passenger jets to transport cargo, bought 26 per cent of Avinco Holdings, a Dutch company that sells second-hand aircraft and helicopters. Both firms presented themselves as independent entities without any significant external support from other firms but in reality they were secretly controlled by Airbus.
Meanwhile, Avinco Holdings is mainly financed by a UAE businessman who held 14,999 shares through a holding company. Airbus owned only one share through a shell company in the tax haven of Curacao. However, according to a secret agreement, Airbus had the right to seize control of Avinco Holdings at any time. In exchange, the UAE businessman received an annual dividend equivalent to 20 per cent of his total investment.
It will certainly be a lengthy investigation as records going back over many years will need to be combed through and the organisations involved are distributed across the globe. However, once the forensic accountants start sifting through the evidence, a picture will begin to emerge.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 25 September 2017