Indonesia presses UK over corruption probe into Bombardier

Indonesia is seeking assurances from the UK that it will secure a share of any future financial settlement stemming from a British corruption investigation into aircraft maker Bombardier after Jakarta was left out of a deal reached with Airbus three years ago.

Cahyo Muzhar, director-general of legal administrative affairs at Indonesia’s ministry of law and human rights, said Jakarta was “very unhappy” at being excluded from a €3.6bn deferred prosecution agreement that Airbus signed with French, UK and US authorities in 2020.

Airbus admitted to a string of bribery and corruption offences — spanning multiple countries — that related to the European aircraft maker’s efforts to sell aircraft.

The €3.6bn settlement in January 2020 resolved what the US authorities described as a “massive” bribery scheme, which included kickbacks to executives at Indonesia’s state-owned airline Garuda.

Indonesia helped the western authorities to uncover the kickbacks, according to Jakarta officials.

Jakarta spent about Rp2bn on its own probe into Airbus, which resulted in several convictions in the Indonesian courts, including Emirsyah Satar, Garuda’s former chief executive.

The “UK did not suffer a financial loss. Indonesia suffered a financial loss”, Muzhar told the Financial Times. 

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into Canada’s Bombardier over aircraft sales to Garuda in 2020, and asked for Indonesia’s assistance last year.

Jakarta has not yet handed over evidence to the SFO gathered from its own investigation into Bombardier and Garuda, and wants assurances that its role in uncovering wrongdoing would be recognised through a share of any settlement proceeds, according to Indonesian government officials.

Indonesia has convicted one person and named four suspects in its investigation into Bombardier.

Jakarta’s request to the SFO for a share of any future UK settlement with Bombardier highlights how nations affected by corruption want compensation when they assist in corporate plea deals pursued by western countries, including Britain and the US.

The SFO informally sought Jakarta’s help with its Airbus probe in 2017, according to the Indonesian officials.

Emirsyah Satar, Garuda chief executive, walks down the steps from a Bombardier CRJ1000 in February 2012 after agreeing to buy six jets with an option for 18 more © Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

They added they had been expecting the SFO to prosecute Airbus and were surprised to learn in 2020 that the UK had cut a deal with the European aircraft maker to which Indonesia was not a party, breeding deep resentment in the country. 

The Indonesian government sent two letters to the UK — both seen by the Financial Times — calling on London to compensate Jakarta from Britain’s €991mn share of the €3.6bn settlement reached with Airbus.

The first letter, sent in June 2020 to the then UK home secretary Priti Patel, said Indonesia had provided “critical evidence” to the SFO about corrupt deals involving Garuda, including bank account information, emails and procurement contracts.

The second letter, sent in August 2020 and signed by Yasonna Laoly, minister of law and human rights, stated: “Unfortunately I have not yet had the honour of a response.” 

Jakarta has still not received an official response from the British government and is “questioning whether Indonesia and the UK really do have a good relationship”, said Muzhar.

He was speaking after meeting officials from the SFO and the government in London this month, where he asked for a response to Indonesia’s request.

Indonesia made clear that no evidence from Jakarta’s Bombardier investigation would be forthcoming without a response, said Muzhar, although he added things could be “done in parallel”.

UK officials said they would take “Indonesia’s request seriously”, he added. “We are confident the UK will come up with something,” said Muzhar and Jakarta was hopeful the meeting would be followed with “concrete actions”.

The SFO said: “Our investigation into suspected bribery and corruption at Bombardier is ongoing”. The Home Office declined to comment.