Airbus is steeling its workforce for a “turbulent and confusing” period as the first of several corruption investigations appears to be nearing conclusion.
Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, wrote to the aircraft maker’s 130,000 staff on Friday to warn of the potential for “significant penalties” arising from corruption investigations under way in the UK, France, Germany and Austria.
He urged staff to ignore media speculation and attempts by “individuals with vested interests to discredit top management by spreading false allegations” as the investigations continue.
His letter, seen by the Financial Times, comes as German prosecutors prepare to wind up their five-year investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption in the €2bn sale of fighter jets to Austria’s ministry of defence.
The investigation focused on whether illegal payments were made to politicians, civil servants and others to influence the deal. Airbus has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“Our investigation is about to come to an end. We aim to complete the proceeding soon,” a spokeswoman for Munich prosecutors told Reuters on Thursday. However, she declined to comment on a report by the German weekly Der Spiegel that alleged charges would be filed soon.
One person close to the subject said Mr Enders was not expected to face any charges. Mr Enders ran Airbus’s defence division from 2000 to 2005.
Meanwhile, Austrian prosecutors continue their own investigation into the sale of 18 Eurofighter combat jets in 2003. The Austrian defence ministry is seeking some €1.1bn in damages, alleging that it was forced to overpay for the jets despite a renegotiation of the contract in 2007 as a result of fraudulent action on the part of Airbus. (end of excerpt)
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