Airbus Launches Internal Corruption Probe into Unexplained US$ 19M Payment

Aerospace giant Airbus has begun an internal investigation into possible corruption following a series of dubious financial transactions uncovered by the Guardian that resulted in a multi-million dollar unexplained payment, the Guardian reported Monday.

Airbus A380Airbus A380 (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl)Leaked documents obtained by the paper show how two companies secretly controlled by Airbus engaged in transactions involving €19 million (US$ 22.7m), a large part of which went to a mysterious company via a tax haven.

In 2007, Eolia, a Maltese company that retrofits passenger jets to transport cargo, bought 26% of Avinco Holdings, a Dutch company that sells second-hand aircraft and helicopters. Both firms presented themselves as independent entities without any significant external support from other firms but in reality they were secretly controlled by Airbus, the paper wrote.

Avinco Holdings, founded in 2000, is mainly financed by a UAE businessman who held 14,999 shares through a holding company. Airbus owned only one share through a shell company called Yellow Sun Holdings in the tax haven of Curacao, in the Caribbean.

But according to a secret agreement, Airbus had the right to seize control of Avinco Holdings at any time. In exchange, the UAE businessman received an annual dividend equivalent to 20% of his total investment.

Bank documents show that in 2007 Eolia transferred €19.4m (US$ 23m) to Avinco Holdings with the transaction marked “share purchase Avinco.”

A week later, the holding company paid €16.2m (US$ 19.4m) to the bank account of a Panamanian company called Rochade Consultancy. On the same day, Rochade paid an identical sum to another company, Malana Holding. It’s unclear who owns Malana, or where it is incorporated.

Avinco Holdings recorded the payment to Rochade as an “interim dividend” in internal financial documents. But it's unclear why Rochade, which is not a shareholder, would have the right to any dividend.

Airbus didn’t have an explanation as to why its control of the two companies was concealed and who received the money.

“As part of our ongoing compliance upgrade and investigation into historic business practices within the company, Airbus is determined to uncover any non-compliance and improper practices to ensure that they can never happen again,” the aerospace firm said, according to the Guardian.

“If non-compliance is identified, the company will take all actions necessary to root it out, inform the relevant authorities and ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

Lawyers for Eolia denied that the firm was involved in money laundering and said until recently it had no knowledge of the €16.2m (US$ 19.4m) payment.

Airbus is already facing corruption investigations including allegations that the firm lied about its use of middlemen in order to secure financial backing from the British government.