Judges on Friday approved a record €3.6bn (£3bn, $3.9bn) settlement to be paid by French plane maker Airbus (AIR.PA) over allegations of bribery.
A judge in London approved a deferred prosecution agreement struck between the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and Airbus.
The deal will see Airbus pay €991m (£832m, $1bn) to UK authorities as part of a global settlement worth €3.6bn. The settlement ends probes in the UK, France, and United States and is “the world’s largest global resolution for bribery”, the SFO said.
Airbus has been under investigation by the SFO for four years over allegations external consultants used by the company paid bribes in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Ghana between 2011 and 2015. The investigation was launched after Airbus discovered inconsistencies in disclosures made about external consultants.
“Airbus paid bribes through agents around the world to stack the decks in its favour and win contracts around the globe,” said Lisa Osofsky, director of the SFO.
“Corruption like this undermines free trade and fair development and it is to Airbus’s credit that it has admitted its culpability, cleaned its house and come forward to put this conduct to bed.”
The global investigation — which covered many more countries than those the SFO looked into — involved reviewing over 30m documents, according to Friday’s judgement.
Incidents uncovered by the investigation include:
A $50m sponsorship of a sports team owned by two AirAsia executives that investigators claim was meant to induce more plane orders;
$2m paid to the wife of a Sri Lankan Airlines executive through a Brunei shell company;
$3.3m paid to senior staff at Indonesia’s national airline;
Millions paid to secure order for military aircrafts from the Ghanaian government.
Dame Victoria Sharp, the judge who approved the settlement, said bribery was “endemic” within Airbus’s civilian and military aircraft sales businesses.
“The seriousness of the criminality in this case hardly needs to be spelled out,” the judge said in a statement. “As is acknowledged on all sides, it was grave. The conduct took place over many years. It is no exaggeration to describe the investigation it gave rise to as worldwide, extending into every continent in which Airbus operates.”
The US Department of Justice will receive €525m (£441m, $581.8m) from Airbus as part of the settlement. French regulators will receive €2.08bn (£1.6bn, $2.2bn).
Airbus earlier this week announced it had reached a settlement but didn’t specific the size of the deal. The company did not immediately respond for a request to comment on Friday.