ARE France's PNF (Parquet National Financier) and the U.K.'s SFO (Serious Fraud Office) trying to cooperate with Airbus to cover up its many cases of gross corruption? The aerospace giant might be close to settling for a 1 billion pound payoff to bury many cases of fraud and corruption it is involved in globally. Airbus has paid large commissions in Saudi Arabia, Romania, Austria, China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Mauritius. Its illegal activity is egregiously prolific, and its behavior should be embarrassing to any reputable company.
In Turkey, Airbus hid commissions on 34 of its products through a fictitious plan to construct a pipeline in the Caspian Sea. In Kazakhstan, it paid Karim Massimov--the country's former Prime Minister--12 million euros in kickbacks, all channeled through bank accounts in Singapore.
To add a gloss to Airbus' shadiness, the American firm Dechert is representing its interests against the SFO and PNF. Lawyer Neil Gerrard works for Dechert--and he formerly worked for the SFO, so is no doubt using his former contacts and expertise with the SFO to help Airbus at the negotiating table. This may look like a conflict of interest, but conflicts of interest have never stopped Airbus from practicing its business methods.
Insider sources we contacted claim that a French investigation into Airbus' activities in Kazakhstan, which has not happened yet, would open "a Pandora's box of accusations" and force the PNF to confront Airbus' past record of extreme corruption. A small settlement in the shape of 1 billion pounds would, of course, be no more than another shade of corruption drawing a veil over corporate greed and misbehavior.
So why would France be willing to play along with a tack settlement for Airbus? Have some Elysee officials also been getting kickbacks? Our sources suggest the answer to that is a hard "Yes". Lawyer Catherine Degoul met with two Elysee officials in August 2010 and at the first meeting, Degoul discussed "contracts of interest to Thales and Eurocopter" with Senator Aymori de Montesquiou, an Elysee representative. In a second meeting with Montesquiou, which another Elysee official, Etienne des Rosaies, attended, Degoul discussed commission percentages on multiple contracts, including "Eurocopter/Agusta 4%". This was the percentage commission Eurocopter later agreed to on a sale to Kazakhstan. Eurocopter is a subsidiary of Airbus.
A joint SFO-PNF settlement with Airbus would be preposterous and make a mockery of official attempts to rein in corruption in Europe and elsewhere. The aerospace giant should be investigated down to the last euro of misappropriated fund and so finally open that Pandora's box containing dozens or hundreds of cases of widespread corruption.