Airbus is set to pay total penalties of just under 3.6 billion euros (4 billion dollars) to settle investigations in France, Britain and the United States, French prosecutors said on Friday.
A French court approved a settlement of just over 2 billion euros to settle corruption allegations relating to Airbus aircraft and satellite sales between 2004 and 2016.
Airbus confirmed that it had also reached agreements with British and US authorities to pay them fines of 984 million euros and 535 million euros respectively.
The total is more than the 3.05 billion euros profits that Airbus recorded in 2018. The manufacturer is due to announce its 2019 financial results on February 13 and says they will take account of the fines.
The probes relate to allegations of bribery and corruption and to inaccuracies in filings made under arms trade regulations in the US, according to the company.
‘Airbus has taken significant steps to reform itself and to ensure that this conduct will not reoccur,’ the company said in a statement.
The US Department of Justice said Airbus' settlement with it related to a ‘scheme to offer and pay bribes to foreign officials, including Chinese officials, in order to obtain and retain business, including contracts to sell aircraft.’ The company had had a ‘scheme to use third-party business partners to bribe government officials, as well as non-governmental airline executives, around the world,’ the department said.
Admissions and court documents showed the company's bribery scheme had started in at least 2008 and continued until at least 2015, the department added.
French authorities gave less details of the allegations but said they related to potential criminal offences including bribery of foreign officials, abuse of company assets, and fraud by an organized gang.
They said the allegations first came to their attention in 2016 when British export credit agency UK Export Finance alerted its French counterpart COFACE to ‘multiple inconsistencies’ in declarations by Airbus about its intermediaries and how much they had been paid.
Airbus has previously said it detected the issue itself and reported it to British authorities in April 2016. The French and British settlements did not amount to admissions of liability, it said.
Britain's Serious Fraud Office said its settlement with Airbus covered five counts of failure to prevent bribery in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Indonesia and Ghana between 2011 and 2015.
Airbus has gradually replaced its entire top management team since the allegations came to light in 2016, with German chief executive Tom Enders handing over to France's Guillaume Faury last year.
‘The settlements we have reached today turn the page on unacceptable business practices from the past,’ Airbus chairman Denis Ranque said.
The agreements with authorities in France, Britain and the US ‘also reflect that the decision to voluntarily report and cooperate with the authorities was the right one,’ he added.
Airbus says it had total sales of 64 billion euros in 2018 and employed a workforce of around 134,000.
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