04:19 GMT28 February 2020
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    Airbus has been under a four-year investigation by European and US authorities regarding allegations of corruption and third party irregularities. The probe has already seen the departure of high-level management.

    Airbus has come to an agreement "in principle" with French, UK, and US officials over an investigation into bribery and corruption allegations, the company said on Tuesday.

    The multinational aerospace constructor confirmed that an agreement had been reached but it could not go into the precise details of the talks held with France's Parquet National Financier, the UK Serious Fraud Office and US authorities.

    "These agreements are made in the context of investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption as well as compliance with the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations", Airbus said in the statement on Tuesday.
    "They remain subject to approval by French and UK courts and the US court and regulator", it added.

    This development means that the company can avoid formal charges but will be expected to pay a fine.

    The Financial Times reported that the settlement could require the company to fork out a huge sum with analysts predicting fines of up to €3 billion (£2.5 billion), eclipsing the £671 million penalties imposed on Rolls-Royce following similar proceedings two years ago. 

    While the penalty may be huge, it would signal the end of a nearly four-year investigation led by French and British authorities on allegations of corruption and irregularities regarding third party consultants.

    Despite not being found guilty of any wrongdoing, the probe has claimed the jobs of numerous top members of the company including Tom Enders, chief executive, and Fabrice Brégier, chief operating officer who both retired in spring 2019.

    The case involved a focus on intermediaries who ran a now-disbanded unit which at its height involved around 250 people across the globe, according to Reuters sources.

    In the US, the company has also been accused of violations of export controls.

    Airbus saw an overhaul of its ethics and compliance procedures in response to the accusations and fired over 100 employees after its own internal investigations.

    The Serious Fraud investigation kicked-off in July 2016 over fraud, bribery and corruption claims in Airbus's civil aviation group while an investigation by German authorities over allegations of misuse of client documents is still ongoing.

    The 2014 introduction of corporate plea deals in the UK has seen top companies such as Standard Bank, Sarclad, Rolls-Royce, Serco, Tesco, and Güralp Systems pay fines to avoid legal consequences.

    Anti-bribery campaigners have long been opposed to such deals, saying that they let companies off lightly and fail to act as a deterrent.

    Groups, including Corruption Watch, Global Witness Transparency International, and the UNCAC Coalition, issued a statement to a Paris anti-bribery summit in 2016 saying that deals should only be any option when companies self-report the crime, are interested in full co-operation, and the individuals involved face full legal prosecution.


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