Tuesday 4 May 2021 4:56 pm

Serious Fraud Office ends investigation into Airbus individuals

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has ended a criminal investigation into individuals associated with Airbus, after it agreed to a record €3.6bn global settlement 16 months ago.

Three sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters the SFO had written to former suspects to say it would take no further action. Overseas prosecutors could, however, take a different view in cases where suspects face more than one inquiry.

Read more: Airbus profits up but crisis ‘not yet over’ for planemaker

In January 2020 Airbus agreed to pay the mammoth €3.6bn fine after a joint investigation by UK, US and French authorities found the aerospace giant had paid bribes to help secure contracts around the world.

The SFO updated its website only last month to state that its case would remain open until the end of the deferred prosecution agreement – a settlement that allows companies to avoid criminal prosecution in a court-approved deal that often includes a fine and compliance monitoring – in January 2023.

Airbus and the SFO have been contacted for comment.

Read more: Serious Fraud Office looking at Lloyds Bank and KPMG claims

The SFO, which has yet to successfully prosecute individuals following a DPA, has faced criticisms of serious failings after the collapse of high-profile trials against former executives at Serco, over prisoner-tagging, and at retailer Tesco after corporate settlements.

It also abandoned investigations into suspects associated with aero engine maker Rolls-Royce and drugs company GlaxoSmithKline in 2019, raising the ire of anti corruption groups that say it is absurd for companies to settle allegations of wrongdoing when individuals cannot be held to account.

But Sarah Wallace, a lawyer at Constantine Law, noted it was inherently more difficult to prosecute and secure convictions against individuals than agreeing a DPA with a company.

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