A US senator accused EADS and Airbus of systematically engaging in bribery to compete with Boeing.
"Airbus uses a series of incentives and threats to steal customers away from Boeing – everything from bribes and landing rights to discounts, value guarantees and trade threats and rewards," Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) said in a powerful 2004 speech on the Senate floor. Boeing is headquartered in her state.
"Airbus has a history of graft and corruption," the senator said, citing a June 2003 article in The Economist titled, "Airbus' secret past – Aircraft and bribery."
"The Economist article details Airbus sales campaigns in India, Syria and Canada that involved corruption and bribes. The article notes that in 2001, the Undersecretary for Commerce for International Trade, Grant Aldonas, testified before Congress on US competitiveness in aircraft manufacturing. The Undersecretary warned that bribery remains a threat to US competitiveness.
"He said, quote: 'This is an industry where foreign corruption has a real impact. Bribery by foreign companies can have important consequences for US competitiveness. Because of the critical role governments play in selecting aircraft suppliers, and because of the huge sums of money involved in aircraft purchases, this sector has been especially vulnerable to trade distortions involving bribery of foreign public officials.'
"His remarks were directed squarely at Airbus and the European nations which aggressively back Airbus sales campaigns throughout the world.
"The article also notes that -- according to a 2001 European Parliament Report -- the US National Security Agency intercepted faxes and phone calls between Airbus, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Saudi government officials in early 1994. The NSA found that Airbus agents were offering bribes to a Saudi official to ensure that Airbus received a $6 billion order to modernize Saudi Arabian Airlines fleet. Bribes and corruption have long been part of Airbus' standard operating procedure for getting other countries to buy their airplanes."