airbus enquiry

Serious Fraud Office starts Airbus inquiry

UK opens investigation into fraud, bribery and corruption allegations in connection with aircraft sales

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has confirmed that it has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the commercial airline business of Airbus, the defence and aviation firm. The investigation into potential criminal dealings in the sale of commercial planes was launched in July but revealed at the weekend by the European manufacturer.

The SFO said that the allegations related to irregularities with third party consultants. Airbus said it had flagged up the suspect activity itself, effectively self-reporting to the SFO via UK export agencies, and was cooperating fully with the investigation.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Airbus said: “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. Airbus Group continues to cooperate with the SFO.” Neither Airbus nor the SFO would comment further on the details.

Earlier this year, a UK government agency suspended the issue of export credits to Airbus, due to discrepancies in declarations by the manufacturer on the use of outside intermediaries during jet sale negotiations. Airbus said it had flagged up the mistakes and omissions relating to applications for export credit financing for its customers.

The agency, UK Export Finance, had said it was referring the discrepancies to the SFO, which would decide whether to launch a criminal investigation. French and German agencies have also halted the plane-maker’s export credits, which support deliveries to airlines with limited access to commercial funds.

This month, Airbus’s group CEO Tom Enders said they were hopeful that export credits would be restored by the end of the year. Airbus itself has extended credit worth €587m to customers in the first half of 2016 – a tenfold increase on 2015 – to maintain sales.

Airbus notified investors of the potential issues in April, saying that the discovery of irregularities had emerged “in the context of its internal compliance improvement programme”. Offshoots and companies jointly owned by Airbus had come under investigation in the last two years in Germany, Greece and Turkey.

The Toulouse-headquartered aeroplane manufacturer’s global business sees contracts of staggering proportions, with its current order book valued at just under $1tn (£764bn) at the start of 2016. It claims in recent years to have edged US giant and great rival Boeing in the market for the biggest jets, although its flagship doubledecker superjumbo, the A380, has failed to find many new customers outside the Middle East.

While it has subsidiaries in the US, China, Japan, India and the Middle East, Airbus’s major aircraft design and manufacturing facilities are based in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, where wings are engineered.


Tokyo law firm to acquire Thai practice

Tokyo-based law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto has agreed to acquire a leading practice in Thailand, aiming to assist Japanese businesses as they expand their presence there and in the region.

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto (Thailand) will purchase Chandler & Thong-ek for an undisclosed sum. Chandler, which is headquartered in Bangkok and employs nearly 50 attorneys, will incorporate “MHM” into its name as early as January.

 This will mark the first time that a Japanese legal group acquires a foreign firm of this scale. The Thai firm will serve as the nerve center for MHM’s Asian operations, which will span 60 lawyers. Functions will include providing legal support for the flurry of acquisitions in the region.

Major Japanese law firms have branched out into Thailand in recent years. MHM’s Bangkok office has five attorneys. Seeing demand growing in such neighboring countries as Myanmar, the firm has decided to step up its expansion.


Thailand is the biggest destination in Southeast Asia for Japanese corporations in terms of the number of companies and the amount of direct investment, shows data from the Japan External Trade Organization. More Japanese companies are busy organizing top regional offices, and there are reportedly several cases of decisions being made in Thailand on such important matters as acquisitions and fundraising.

Since 2000, Japanese law firms have been merging domestically into practices stretching over 100 lawyers or more. Nishimura & Asahi, the biggest Japanese megafirm, employs a total of 500-plus attorneys at home and abroad. Anderson Mori & Tomotsune comes in next, with more than 400. MHM, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu and TMI Associates have about 370 lawyers each. MHM would take second place once the Thai acquisition is complete.

The growing scale of Japanese law firms has aided domestic companies in activities abroad. But international acquisitions and the like have often been handled by such non-Japanese behemoths as U.S.-based Baker & McKenzie, which employs thousands of attorneys worldwide.


Pinsent Masons weighs up Dublin launch

The firm is considering opening a new office in Dublin as part of a post-Brexit review of Irish operations.

Pinsent Masons might open its first office in the Republic of Ireland in order to round out its client offering in the UK and Ireland following the former’s recent vote to leave the EU. The firm currently has referral relationships with four or five different Dublin-based firms, though it is not clear whether a merger or a local team hire would be the preferred route to establish a presence in the city. ‘Dublin is an important legal market and will continue to be so,’ commented a Pinsents spokesperson, citing a large volume of cross-border legal work generated from the firm’s established office in the Northern Irish city of Belfast. ‘As you would expect, we periodically review with our referral partners how best we can service client demand, however it would be inaccurate to characterise any of those discussions as merger talks.’ The Irish legal market has garnered particular attention over the last few months from UK-based lawyers and firms looking to continue their practice in the European Union after Brexit. According to the Law Society of Ireland, a record-breaking 186 UK solicitors were admitted to practice in Ireland during the six months to June this year.

Sources: Legal Business; The Lawyer

skyline with offices

Osborne Clarke expands in Asia through local association

Osborne Clarke has entered the Singapore market in an association with local firm Queen Street Legal.

The office will operate under the name OC Queen Street and will be led by Bird & Bird partner Chia-Ling Koh, who joins Osborne Clarke after more than a decade at his previous firm. Mr Koh will focus on the digital business and FinTech sectors across Southeast Asia, as well as providing cross-border advice.

Asian associations

It is Osborne’s third associated office in Asia, having formalised its relationship with BTG Legal in India in November 2014 and Koh Vass & Co in Hong Kong last year.

najib razak

Malaysia launches controversial new security laws

Controversial new security laws took effect Monday in Malaysia. Backed by Prime Minister Najib Razak [BBC profile], the National Security Act will allow government authorities [Al Jazeera report] to declare martial law in areas deemed to be under a security threat. Police will be able to conduct warrantless searches, seize property and impose curfews. Najib has defended the legislation as necessary to combat terrorism, but rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized the measures as draconian. “With this new law, the government now has spurned checks and assumed potentially abusive powers,” said Josef Benedict, AI’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific. Others have noted that the laws come amid a scandal in which billions of dollars were stolen from a state investment fund that Najib founded and oversaw. He has denied any wrongdoing.

najib razak

Much controversy has surrounded Najib’s terms as prime minister. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused the government of abusing broad, vaguely worded laws to jail its critics [JURIST report]. In July of last year Najib fired [JURIST report] Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail after learning that Patail was investigating him for corruption. That same month, two major opposition parties called for [JURIST report] an emergency sitting of parliament in order to discuss Najib’s future as prime minister. In 2006, Najib was accused [BBC report] of being connected to the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, after her remains were found in October of that year in Kuala Lumpur. Najib , who was deputy prime minister at the time, denied having any connections to the murder or even knowing the model. A political analyst and associate of Najib’s was charged with aiding [BBC report] the murder, but these charges were later dropped.


Cyril Amarchand, S&R, CC act on L&T Infotech’s $184 mln IPO

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas has advised India’s Larsen & Toubro Infotech on its 12.36-billion-rupee ($184 million) initial public offering, with S&R Associates and Clifford Chance representing the lead managers.

L&T Infotech, India’s sixth-biggest software services exporter, is a subsidiary of engineering services provider Larsen & Toubro. The parent sold part of its stake in the IPO.

Citigroup Global Markets India, Kotak Mahindra Capital Company and ICICI Securities, acted as book-running lead managers on the transaction.

The Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas team working on the transaction was led by Mumbai-based capital markets partner Yash Ashar.