Sri Lanka to probe aircraft deal after Airbus settlement

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka's president ordered a fresh investigation Sunday, February 2, into a multi-billion dollar aircraft purchase involving the island's loss-making national carrier, days after Airbus settled corruption probes in Europe and the US.

A French court on Friday, January 31, approved a deal allowing Airbus to pay 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) in fines to Britain, France and the US to settle corruption cases sparked by suspicious equipment sales.

One of the allegations cited in a judgement and released by a London court Friday concerned the purchase of aircraft by SriLankan Airlines.

Investigators had accused Airbus of failing to prevent persons associated with the company from bribing directors or employees of the airline to "obtain or retain business or advantage".

Gotabaya Rajapaksa's office said the president had ordered a comprehensive investigation into the reports.

Sri Lanka's previous government also called for a criminal investigation into the 2013 purchase of 10 Airbus aircraft, but it petered out without conclusion.

Sri Lanka's national carrier is deeply in the red, with estimated accumulated losses of $1.24 billion and debt of about $750 million. –