Airbus reaches deal to settle bribery and corruption probes

Aerospace giant Airbus has reached a deal with authorities in three countries to settle yearslong probes of alleged bribery and corruption.

The European planemaker has come to an “agreement in principle” with officials in the US, the UK and France to settle the investigations, it said Tuesday. The probes are reportedly linked to the company’s use of middlemen to lock down orders for jets.

Airbus said it could not disclose the details of the deal, which is still subject to court approval in all three nations. But it could force the company to fork over about $3 billion in what would be one of the largest corporate corruption settlements in recent history, according to Bloomberg News.

Airbus’ Paris-listed shares were trading up 0.6 percent on the news at 133.82 euros as of 3:39 p.m. local time Tuesday.

The settlement reportedly stems from Airbus’ decades-long use of outside sales agents to snag jet orders as it battled with rival planemaker Boeing. The scheme involved hundreds of millions of euros in payments each year and roughly 250 people in some parts of the world at its height, Reuters reported. Airbus’ own investigation of the problem has led to more than 100 firings.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office started investigating Airbus in 2016 after the company told regulators about problematic declarations related to payments to sales agents. France’s Parquet National Financier opened its own probe seven months later, and the US Department of Justice has also taken an interest in the case.

Airbus recently beat out Boeing for the title of world’s largest planemaker as the latter company grappled with the grounding of its 737 MAX jet, which was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. Boeing suspended production of the plane this month and also replaced its CEO amid the crisis.

With Post wires

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