Airbus Says It Misled State Department on Arms Sales


An Airbus A300 Super Transporter taking off near Toulouse, France, this month. The European aerospace giant said its arms trafficking filings in the United States were not accurate.

Pascal Pavani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The aircraft manufacturer Airbus said on Tuesday that it may have violated United States rules on arms exports, potentially expanding a corruption investigation that has already shaken the company in Europe.

Airbus, Boeing’s main rival in the pbadenger jet business, said that it had provided false information to the State Department about its compliance with rules on arms sales overseas. Airbus provided few details except to say that the inaccuracies related to American regulations on fees and commissions paid to sales agents.

The disclosure raised the prospect that corruption investigations involving the company in Europe, to do with the use of middlemen to pay bribes, could spread to the United States, which typically imposes much higher fines and stiffer court judgments. In an industry that relies heavily on ties with government, Airbus could also be at a disadvantage competing for contracts, or even be frozen out altogether.

Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, is under investigation by the British and French authorities for possible use of intermediaries to pay bribes related to the sale of commercial aircraft. In addition, the German and Austrian authorities are investigating bribery allegations tied to the sale of Eurofighter jets to Austria in 2003. Airbus also has a unit in Columbus, Miss., that makes helicopters for civilian and military buyers.

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In its quarterly financial report on Tuesday, Airbus warned that penalties from the European investigations could have a significant effect on its finances. The company said that net profit from July through September rose sevenfold to 348 million euros, or $405 million, mainly because of favorable currency exchange rates. Sales rose 2 percent to €14.2 billion.

The false information sent to the State Department was related to defense products or services, but the company did not say which kind. A company spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday.

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