Sri Lankan President orders comprehensive probe into deal with Airbus

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered the authorities to investigate alleged financial irregularities in the transaction between SriLankan Airlines and Airbus following the reports that the multinational aircraft manufacturer paid massive bribes to airline executives to secure contracts.

President’s Office said the President had ordered a comprehensive investigation immediately into the reports covering all aspects of the alleged transaction took place in 2013.

According to disclosures in courts in Washington DC, Paris and London Airbus for years conducted a “massive scheme to offer and pay bribes” involving very senior executives in 16 countries including Sri Lanka’s ailing national carrier, SriLankan Airlines.

According to the Statement of Facts issued on 31 January 2020 as part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement reached between Airbus and the prosecuting authorities, in 2013, Airbus engaged the wife of SriLankan Airlines Executive, through a straw company which was registered in Brunei.

Airbus employees offered up to US$16.84 million to influence SriLankan Airlines’ purchase of 10 Airbus aircraft and the lease of an additional 4 aircraft to an intermediary company registered in Brunei under the wife of an executive at SriLankan Airlines. The Airbus had paid out US$ 2 million of the agreed amount to the company, it said.

Furthermore, to disguise the identity Company of Intermediary approved by Airbus employees as a BP, Airbus employees misled UK authorities as to her name and sex, the statement said.

In 2017, Sri Lanka paid US$ 98 million in penalties for cancelling the order in 2016 and returning four A350 ‘extra wide-body’ aircraft that is specifically designed for long haul routes and unsuitable for the airline’s business model.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Sri Lanka Director Asoka Obeyesekere recalling that the fallout from the A350 deal is widely reported to have cost Sri Lanka in excess of 17 billion rupees in cancellation penalties, called for action both internationally and locally to ensure that Airbus and its agents are held accountable for losses inflicted on Sri Lanka.

Airbus has agreed to pay combined penalties of more than $3.9 billion to resolve foreign bribery charges with authorities in the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

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