Friday, 02 December 2022
Swiss help to probe SL’s Airbus deal

Swiss help to probe SL’s Airbus deal

Swiss investigators are flying into Colombo next month to investigate the Airbus agreement with SriLankan Airlines as part of an international probe on allegedly corrupt deals by the France-based aircraft manufacturer. While the government here is independently probing whether there was any corruption in the Airbus deal with SriLankan Airlines, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began an investigation in August to examine suspected irregularities in the use of third-party agents by Airbus to win contracts. While a top government source confirmed the involvement of the Swiss in the Airbus probe in Colombo, it was unclear as to why the Swiss are involved. “I am told that the investigators are from a top Swiss anti-corruption agency which has been good at tracking financial crimes,” he told the Business Times.

The previous SriLankan Airlines administration has been accused of purchasing four Airbus A350 super-luxury aircraft at an inflated price under a plan to re-fleet the entire airline at a cost of around US$2.3 billion. Last week the government said the cancellation of the deal with Airbus means forking out Rs. 25 billion as a settlement. The source said the Swiss officials will meet with the Treasury, the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development (MPED) and the Financial Crimes Investigation Division. They will assist all these local agencies to intercept the frauds and bring culprits to book, according to the source. Other officials said that the Swiss officials had offered to help in the local probe as part an international investigation on Airbus and key elements in the Weliamuna report on SriLankan Airlines will be examined.

“They will assist with financial misappropriation that’s highlighted in the report,” an official told the Business Times. He said the Weliamuna report had partly prompted this international probe and the Swiss team is a part of this investigation. “The Swiss team also takes responsibility to assist countries in probes that are connected.” Airbus also said it’s carrying out a wide-ranging review of its relationships with third-party consultants. The government will take steps to axe certain officials accused of involvement in corrupt activities, MPED Minister Kabir Hashim told the Business Times recently, rejecting SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ajith Dias’ claims earlier this month that the Weliamuna report is wrong. Meanwhile international media reports said that Airbus is bracing for a lengthy period of uncertainty over its core commercial jetliner business due to the probe. Airbus is already the subject of a four-year-old SFO investigation into a $3.3 billion communications deal with Saudi Arabia.

(By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera)

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