SFO Charges Airbus Unit, Three Individuals in Saudi Probe

The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office charged a unit ofAirbus SE and three individuals as part of its investigation into allegations of corruption in Saudi Arabia.

GPT Special Project Management Ltd., former Managing Director Jeffrey Cook, and John Mason, the financial officer and part-owner of subcontractors to GPT, were charged with corruption. Cook has also been charged with misconduct in public office over commissions he was paid for contracts he placed with ME Consultants Ltd. while he was working for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence between 2004 and 2008. Terence Dorothy has been charged with aiding and abetting that offense.

The probe into contracts awarded to GPT for work carried out for the Saudi Arabian National Guard was opened in August 2012. GPT is a U.K. company and subsidiary ofAirbus that operated in Saudi Arabia and ended operations in April. The case against all four is scheduled to begin Sept. 14.

The charges won’t affect an agreement Airbus made with the prosecutor in January to settle separate bribery allegations, the company said in a statement. Airbus set aside 3.6 billion euros ($4.2 billion) earlier this year as part of a deferred prosecution agreement following an investigation by authorities in the U.K., U.S. and France.

“The SFO’s investigation related to contractual arrangements originating prior to GPT’s acquisition by Airbus and continuing thereafter,” an Airbus spokesperson said.

At the center of the eight-year probe were allegations the Riyadh-based subsidiary paid bribes to win a 2 billion-pound ($2.6 billion) contract to provide services and training for the Saudi Arabian National Guard on behalf of the U.K. defense department. The case has been particularly politically sensitive because of the British government’s involvement and was delayed after the Attorney General sought external legal advice on the case.

A government spokesperson declined to comment on the case.

— With assistance by Charlotte Ryan

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