French court fines Safran for Nigerian bribes


French aeronautics and defence group Safran was fined 500,000 euros (US$630,000) on yesterday by a Paris court for bribing public officials in Nigeria to win a contract in 2000/03.

Investigating magistrates found that the bribes had helped Safran win a 170 million euro contract to make more than 70 million identity cards.

Safran, 30 percent state-owned, said it would appeal, adding: “Safran would like to point out that it is deeply attached to the strict respect of anti-corruption rules”.

Foreign corruption rulings against big French companies are rare in France. A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that was leaked in July said French authorities lacked the resources to fight possible corruption in big export contracts.

Prosecutors had originally sought to have the Safran case dismissed, but did not lodge any formal request at the trial in June. The court let off two of the company’s executives, for whom prosecutors had sought a suspended sentence of up to 18 months and fines of 15,000 euros each.

Like all members of the OECD, France is part of the convention against the bribery of foreign officials, which requires that the practice be a criminal offence.

In April Safran posted first-quarter revenue of 3.108 billion euros (US$4.1 billion), above market forecasts of around 3 billion, boosted by a 15.1 percent rise in the economically sensitive after-market for civil jet engines.

General Electric and Safran jointly own the world’s largest civil jet engine manufacturer, CFM International, which supplies engines for all recent Boeing 737s and about half of the Airbus A320s — 150-seat models that form the backbone of most airline fleets.