Published on 28 July 2017

Tom Enders drags Airbus Group into anti-corruption maelstrom

Chief executive Tom Enders.

The top management of the Airbus Group is in a state of extreme schizophrenia. Chief executive Tom Enders, who has been engaged in a complete and sometimes brutal reorganization of the group's commercial activities over the last two years, has since the spring himself become the target of an investigation being carried out by the Austrian prosecution service. Austrian prosecutors are delving into the conditions in which a mega-contract for the sale of Eurofighters was awarded to Airbus in 2003. At the time, Enders was head of the defence division of Airbus (then known as EADS), which negotiated the contract.

In Paris and among senior Airbus managers, the Austrian investigation is seen as a possible explanation for the energetic anti-corruption campaign being led by Enders. But his anti-corruption stance can be explained, too, by the fact that Airbus is also embroiled in a comparable investigation being carried out by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), backed up more recently by France's national, financial prosecution service, the Parquet National Financier (PNF). This investigation, which is being closely followed by the American State Department, is aimed at finding out if Airbus Group concealed paiements paid to commercial export agents in Asia and the Middle East. To do this, as Intelligence Online revealed, several "integrity" audits were launched within the group, leading to different forms of action being taken.

Since then, still according to our revelations, Enders has put a complete stop to the use of commercial agents for contracts in countries functioning under opaque governance systems. This has sidelined a whole system of intermediation which has often been of precious use to the French and German intelligence services as they try to get to the heart of the decision-making circles in the group's client countries. The riposte from the agents was not long in coming. In June, Necdet Ersoy, the group's agent in Turkey, threatened to take Airbus to court for unilateral breach of contract. Other legal action could follow.

The decision to stop using agents also reflects the direction being taken by the group at industrial level. Given that the agents were principally used to obtain military aircraft contracts, the group has naturally shifted its sights more towards civil aviation markets.

Intelligence Online began following the twists and turns of the group's anti-corruption efforts in 2014. The results of our three years of investigation can be seen below.

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