By Juliette Jabkhiro
PARIS -Airbus and the French financial prosecution office have agreed to settle an investigation related to bribery in Libya and Kazakhstan more than a decade ago, with the planemaker paying a fine of about 16 million euros ($16.62 million), the two parties said at a court hearing on Wednesday.
The settlement, approved by the Paris judicial court, is likely to draw a line under the investigations, which began in 2016.
The new settlement comes as an extension to a deal struck with prosecutors in 2020, which included record fines against the planemaker.
The prosecutor said Airbus had already paid more than $3 billion in fines for corruption three years ago, and that the company had cooperated with authorities.
“The record fine at the time fully covered the public interest … since then, there has been a profound internal transformation at Airbus,” it said.
The planemaker has undergone sweeping management changes since the original probe began in 2016 and says it now has a state-of-the-art compliance and whistleblower system. It remains under supervision by outside monitors until early next year.
Thanking the prosecutors and the judicial process, Airbus lawyer Gilles August told the court: “Today Airbus operates with the strictest integrity.”
Airbus’ initial settlement followed a four-year probe which originated in Britain and later expanded to France and the United States, shedding light on a network of middlemen and disguised payments.
The French part of the 2020 settlement, amounting to 2.1 billion euros, cited corruption of foreign officials, fraud and money laundering.
The new case involves the sale of jets to Libya under Muammar Gaddafi in 2007 and helicopters, satellites and a satellite control centre to Kazakhstan in 2009.
Prosecutors said Airbus’ unlawful dealings in Libya and Kazakhstan had still been under investigation and thus were not included in the 2020 settlement.
The bribery scheme in Libya was discovered as part of a wider probe by France’s financial prosecutors into business people and politicians linked to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on suspicion of illegal political campaign financing with Libyan funds, which Sarkozy has repeatedly denied.
In notes with its quarterly results last month, Airbus repeated it was co-operating fully with French authorities in the investigations related to Kazakhstan and Libya, but both Airbus and prosecutors had so far declined to comment on details.
($1 = 0.9668 euros)