Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

U.K. Prosecutor Drops Two From Airbus GPT Saudi Investigation

  • SFO told two men questioned in 2014 it’s not pursuing charges
  • Prosecutor was probing bribery allegations in Saudi Arabia

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office dropped its investigation into at least two employees at Airbus Group SE’s GPT unit who were questioned in 2014 in relation to bribery allegations in Saudi Arabia, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The white-collar crime prosecutor informed GPT Special Project Management’s one-time commercial director Richard Moody and Chief Financial Officer Laurence Bryant in recent months it’s not pursuing charges against them, said four people who asked not to be named because the decisions aren’t public.

Another former employee, Malcolm Peto, was told by the SFO that prosecutors weren’t in a position to make a decision yet on his case, according to his lawyer, Miranda Ching. Jeff Cook, who like Peto was a managing director in the division, is still under investigation, the people said.

The SFO made arrests and questioned at least six individuals, including two employees from the U.K. Ministry of Defence, in July 2014, two years after opening an investigation into the Airbus unit. The probe involved allegations that the Riyadh-based subsidiary paid bribes to win a $3.3 billion contract to provide communications and intranet services for the Saudi National Guard among others.

Rolls-Royce Settlement

The Airbus probes is one of several high-profile bribery investigations opened by the SFO in recent years. Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc was ordered to pay 510 million pounds ($639 million) last month as part of a settlement with the prosecutor to resolve three decades of bribery and corruption.

GPT was acquired by Airbus’s predecessor, European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., in 2007. EADS was re-named Airbus in 2014. Lawyers for the men declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the SFO. A spokesman for Toulouse, France-based Airbus said the company was cooperating with the investigation.

Allegations of corruption at GPT first emerged when a whistle-blower disclosed concerns in 2010. Airbus conducted an internal investigation and said it found no evidence of illegality. It then instructed PricewaterhouseCoopers to carry out a second, independent, review of the business, which was passed to the prosecutor in March 2012. Despite PwC’s conclusions that there were no improper payments, the SFO opened an investigation in August 2012.

Separately, the SFO opened another investigation into Airbus’s practices around the use of third parties in selling planes and arranging financing overseas in July 2016. Airbus said in April that management had identified questionable use of third parties and alerted the U.K. and other regulators, but the formal investigation brought the issue to a new, more serious level.

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