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SFO expected to make swift move in Airbus inquiry

Member: Nifa

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is expected to ‘move quickly” in the criminal inquiry into Airbus’s use of third-party agents to win commercial jet sales. 

The case involves discrepancies over the amount of agents’ fees disclosed in applications for export support, or missing names of third parties – which in some cases date back several years. 

The SFO is working with French authorities in its investigation into alleged fraud, bribery and corruption at aerospace group Airbus and launched a criminal inquiry in August after the company’s own compliance teams informed the UK’s export credit agency, which arranges credit guarantees for overseas sales, of inaccuracies.  

The SFO may also be in contact with the US Department of Justice but a spokesman declined to confirm this, saying that it would “speak to any interested party”.

Airbus has said it is co-operating with the investigation but the SFO has said it is too early to say whether the business would qualify for any offer of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), in which a company accounts for alleged offending to a criminal court and, if a Judge agrees, can settle the case with a fine.

It is in the aerospace giant’s interests to co-operate, as a DPA allows for a prosecution to be suspended in exchange for promises of compliance, as well as payment of a fine, redress and helping bring cases against individuals.  DPAs are a common enforcement tool in the US and were introduced in the UK in 2014.  

To this end, Airbus insisted earlier this year that it was involving “legal, investigative and forensic accounting to look at systems.”  As with any forensic investigation, no stone would be left unturned to find out what exactly has happened and who is at fault.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 18 October 2016

Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg

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