UK opens corruption probe into Airbus jet sales

August 7, 2016 2:29 PM EDT

An Airbus logo is pictured on the company booth during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) at Cointrin airport in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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PARIS (Reuters) - Britain's Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal investigation into suspected fraud, bribery and corruption in connection with commercial plane sales by Airbus, parent company Airbus Group (NYSE: AIR) said on Sunday.

A UK government agency this year suspended the issue of export credits to Airbus, citing discrepancies in declarations by the plane maker on the use of third-party intermediaries during jet sale negotiations.

The agency, UK Export Finance, had said it was referring the discrepancies to the SFO, which would decide whether to launch a criminal investigation.

"Airbus Group has been informed by the SFO that it has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the civil aviation business of Airbus Group relating to irregularities concerning third party consultants," the company said in a statement.

"Airbus Group continues to cooperate with the SFO."

French and German agencies have also halted export credits to the plane maker, which support deliveries to airlines with limited access to commercial funds.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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