9 December, 2022


Airbus Bribery: TISL Writes To UK’s Serious Fraud Office

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) wrote to the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK on 6 March 2020, posing a series of queries pertaining to Sri Lanka’s entitlement to compensation in the €3.6bn settlement reached with Airbus SE. This letter forms part of TISL’s ongoing work to aid in the recovery of the $116m loss incurred by SriLankan Airlines as a result of the corrupt re-fleeting deal with Airbus SE. TISL had previously written a joint letter to the SFO, the Parquet National Financier in France and the US Department of Justice in June 2018, flagging allegations of corruption in Airbus SE’s conduct and highlighting the need to ensure compensation for those harmed by any wrongdoing.

In the letter to the SFO Director last week, TISL highlights the UK’s “General Principles to compensate overseas victims (including affected States) in bribery, corruption and economic crime cases”. TISL believes that Sri Lanka has a legitimate demand to compensation in this instance.

The full text of the letter follows below –
Ms. Lisa Osofsky
Serious Fraud Office
2-4 Cockspur Street
London, SW1Y 5BS


Dear Ms. Osofsky,

Sri Lanka’s Entitlement to Compensation Under Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Airbus SE 

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is a national chapter of Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption. Since 2017, TISL has been paying close attention to developments surrounding the investigation into bribes paid by Airbus SE and its agents to actors in jurisdictions around the globe in order to secure contracts worth several billion dollars.

Whilst your office’s investigation has now resulted in a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Airbus SE wherein the aircraft manufacturer has agreed to pay a fine and costs amounting to €991m in the UK, TISL is concerned that the “General Principles to compensate overseas victims (including affected States) in bribery, corruption and economic crime cases” (General Principles), has not been given due consideration.

In the context of the clear evidence of bribes being paid by Airbus SE and its agents to actors affiliated to SriLankan Airlines to influence the procurement of aircraft and the $116m in cancellation costs that the state-owned airline was subsequently straddled with, we wish to pose the following queries to your office –

  1. Section 1 of the General Principles mandates the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to consider the question of compensation in all relevant cases. What were the reasons that justified your decision not to consider this case in line with the General Principles?
  1. Why did the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not include compensation as part of the terms of the DPA entered into with Airbus SE in line with Section 2 (b) of the General Principles?
  1. As per Section 3 of the General Principles, did the SFO work collaboratively with the Department for International Development (DFID), Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Home Office (HO) and HM Treasury (HMT) to –
  • Identify potential overseas victims including affected states?
  • Assess the case for compensation?
  • Obtain evidence including statements in support of compensation claims?

TISL is aware of 5 prior instances where the SFO working with the NCA and CPS have secured compensation for overseas victims totaling £42.9m, as disclosed on the SFO’s website. We are therefore understandably concerned that it appears the same yardstick may not have been used to assess Sri Lanka’s case for compensation.

It is noted that Sri Lanka does not have a comprehensive legal framework for the management of recovered assets. However, following the 2018 Global Forum on Asset Recovery, Sri Lanka has developed a Policy framework on Proceeds of Crime, involving multiple stakeholders from the state and civil society.

Whilst this Policy has not yet translated into law, in the event that the two Governments agree to return the proceeds of crime, it is noted that this framework and the global best practices on such return need to be given due consideration.

Thank you in advance for your prompt response.

Yours sincerely,


Asoka Obeyesekere
Executive Director
Transparency International Sri Lanka

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Latest comments

  • 8

    If Srilanka gets compensation, how much will those who were responsible for the ACT get?

    • 3

      Good work by TISL! but there’s more to be done re. air travel. Amidst the Corona Virus scare with airports being virtually deserted with tourism down, GOSL is signing a contract with an internationally black listed Japanese Company implicated in corruption on highway construction both in Sri Lanka and overseas.
      Sri Lanka signs new agreement with Japanese company for Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) Terminal-2 Project
      This contract also very likely has national security implications
      Taisei group has been charged with bid rigging in Japan
      They say that the new state of the art passenger terminal at BIA can handle and increase up to 15 million per annum.But there are no tourists coming to SL now, and airports are empty and very likely will take a long time to reach 15 million. so why the rush to sign this ?
      Can TI File an RTI on this contract before it turns into another scandal on the scale of Sri Lankan Airlines’ Airbus deal?

  • 15

    This is ‘TYPICAL” Sri Lankan mentality. Without cleaning your house and placing things in order, you try to hang on to others who have clean way of doing things. The British Investigation, arose with three parties who got affected by this corruptive practices of Air Bus. As far as Sri Lanka was concerned, these “Corruptive Deals” were known through State Investigations; but surprisingly no action was taken since 2015 until the outcome of this British case. The British investigation took four years to come to courts. Wasn’t Sri Lanka aware of that British Investigation? Why didn’t S/L Law Enforcement make an attempt to be a “Party” to the case, by opting to provide the already KNOWN facts relating to the “Re-Fleeting” of SriLankan Airline?. Suddenly after the British Court’s verdict, they found a “Suspicious” Bank A/C, a Commercial outfit with one director, who happens to be the wife of the ex CEO of SriLankan Air, registered in a foreign country; ; money from that account transferred to Australia and Sri Lanka; and the owner of that S/L who owns the account and ultimately that “Man” of 27 years of age who withdrew the money died of “Heart Attack”. In this present case too the S/L courts asked the Law Enforcement, why they “FAILED” to take action much earlier. What does that communicate to the International Community? Over the last 70 years, we could not “REVIEW” our Laws and Legal Systems to meet the situations that changes on a daily basis. We FAILED , and now we try to “CREEP” into house that has set up the systems well and try to “GAIN” at other’s expense. Why we open up our “STUPIDITY” and “EXPOSE” further to the world?

  • 19

    Before writing to UK serious fraud office, please write to RIT commission to reveal the names of persons to whose accounts the money deposited by Airbus to a bogus company registered in Brunei in the name of the wife of the then CEO has been transferred into. This is what people in Sri Lanka want and not other matters like case for compensation. If the fraudulent money is recovered, then victims can be compensated from that. Please remember jungle laws in Sri Lanka is different, where serious fraud in UK is considered as customary practice in Sri Lanka. Corrupt kangaroo courts in Sri Lanka under the jackboots of the culprits will never convict them.

    • 4

      You can’t ask this because lots of people names are behind that is the reason no internal inquiry with in the Sri Lanka n airlines administration

    • 0

      Politics is a very lucrative game in Sri Lanka. The law of the jungle prevails in this so called Buddhist country.. The corrupt politicians always quote Buddha but always act in breach of Buddhist preaching so and teachings. It is well known that fraudulent practices and corruption are customary practice in Srilanka and well entrenched. A subservient judiciary, a muzzled press, and brutal and blood thirsty security forces aid and abet the tyrannical government ministers and their followers to plunder the country and gravely violate the human rights of the citizens and make them destitute. The self styled saviours and patriots in the ruling governments commit atrocities and crimes against humanity with impunity, with political patronage.

  • 11

    TISL should first demand this money from Mahinda Rajapakse’s brother in law who was the Chairman and Charmal Rajapakse at whose house the Board meeting was held.

  • 16

    A rogue country trying to cash in on a honest investigation in UK ! Why would UK pay a corrupted country?

    We must seize all properties of kapila Chandrasena, Nimal Perera and the politicians who appointed these rascals

  • 4

    This is a serious matter. Airbus cannot choose to ignore the British, other European and American justice systems. It can however, not only ignore the Sri Lankan justice system but also successfully ask for any compensation from us. I wonder as to why the authorities in the “Yahapalana” Government choose to pay for cancelling the order. If there was something not legally acceptable then the contract is void, bribery and corruption is one of them. Remember, the subsequent working bosses of Sri Lankan Airlines virtually shielded the former bosses, who were in remand for some time. The former bosses got a cut and that is what has surfaced. Now, in paying compensation, did that also go through “a third party”? If so, who are in it? There is something not right when Kapila’s successor simply let matter die down.

  • 1

    e have the politicians we deserve, we all like bribing and taking bribes from the peon , policeman, government officer , al the way up to the Parliament, little guys steal little big guys steal from the central bank, unless we stop electing all these corrupt individuals to parliament , we allays going to have this sort of issues ,

    look at the way Rajapakshas behaving again, this time they will make this county , worse than Uganda get ready to like their foot

  • 0

    The irony is we have a Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) complaining about non existent transparency in Sri Lanka to the UK SERIOUS FUND OFFICE.
    TISL has better complain to the Yellow Robed Dictators and ask for compensation.

  • 1

    Excellent step!! Nothing will happen locally but by taking this step, you are forcing the hands of all concerned.

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