Kuwait’s Anti-Corruption Authority Investigates Airbus Bribes

Kuwait’s anti-corruption authority (NAZAHA) says that it will be investigating allegations of bribes in relation to securing Airbus orders involving Kuwaiti parties. On Thursday it welcomed any information involving the allegations.

The first Kuwait Airways Airbus A320neo taking off. Photo: Airbus

According to Reuters, NAZAHA’s investigations spokesperson Mohammad Bo-Zober, says that it has already begun reaching out to local media covering the scandal in order to gather evidence.

‘Kuwaiti parties’

Neither Reuters nor Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA specified who these ‘Kuwaiti parties’ might be. There are several parties in Kuwait’s aviation world that have associations with Airbus:

Kuwait Airways is the first and most obvious example. The airline is wholly-owned by the Kuwaiti government and has two outstanding Airbus orders. One is for 15 A320neos that was signed in 2014. In fact, the airline received its first this past September. The other order involves the purchase of eight A330neos and five A350-900s, with the first A330neo delivery happening sometime this year.

Then there is Kuwait-based and privately-owned airline, Jazeera Airways. The low-cost carrier has a small fleet of 13 A320 aircraft. This includes four of the newer A320neos – the fourth A320neo delivery taking place in late December 2019. Interestingly, some of its A320s are technically under the ownership of the al Sahaab leasing company. However, this is just a full subsidiary of Jazeera Airways.

Lastly, there is ALAFCO – a Kuwaiti aircraft leasing and finance corporation. The company has a portfolio of over 70 aircraft – including 11 A320neos that are currently in operation by Air India. The lessor is also waiting for the remainder of its order of 18 Airbus A350-900s.

It should be made clear that none of these parties have yet to be named in the investigations. The NAZAHA spokesperson says that it could summon people to provide statements. In fact, it confirms that Kuwait will cooperate with British prosecutors to collect evidence.

Kuwait A330-800neo
Kuwait, Uganda and one other buyer are the only customers for the -800neo. Photo: Airbus

Worldwide corruption

Airbus has been facing a criminal corruption inquiry for the last few years headed by British, French and United States authorities. They were investigating allegations that Airbus bribed or coerced different firms and agencies for airline sales, through an ‘agent’ network.

The European planemaker agreed to a record US$4 billion settlement with France, Britain and the United States. French prosecutors say their corruption probe involves transactions in a number of countries, including Kuwait. Other countries mentioned include China, Japan, Russia, Brazil and Turkey.

A similar case in 2016

Interestingly, this is not the first case of its kind in Kuwait. In fact, a 2016 case sounds almost identical to this latest scandal. According to Gulf Business, Kuwait’s anti-corruption authority launched an investigation into a US$1.1 billion helicopter deal with France amid allegations of bribery.

The government had agreed to buy Airbus Caracal military helicopters in August 2016 as part of a wider package of deals between the two countries worth EUR2.5bn ($2.96bn).

Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah requested an investigation from the Public Anti Corruption Authority after a report in French magazine Marianne alleged a middleman had demanded EUR60m ($71m) from Airbus in commission for the deal.

Kuwait’s Anti-Corruption Authority Investigates Airbus Bribes
The signing of Kuwait Airways’ purchase agreement for eight A330-800 aircraft in Toulouse, France by Kuwait Airways Chairman Yousef Al-Jassim and Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer. Photo: Airbus

It will be interesting to see if NAZAHA’s investigation unearths any new information on the issue. Do you think this will greatly alter future orders for Airbus? Let us know in the comments.

None of the involved parties were available for comment at the time of publishing. However, we will update this article if any response comes in.