Boeing could face criminal charges for two accidents that killed 346 people

Boeing could face criminal charges for two accidents that killed 346 people
Boeing could face criminal charges for two accidents that killed 346 people

By Le Figaro with AFP

Published
1 hour ago,

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Nine French people were among the 157 victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing which crashed on March 10, 2019.
Baz Ratner / REUTERS

The US Department of Justice believes that the aircraft manufacturer did not respect the conditions of an agreement which had until then allowed it to escape prosecution.

The US Department of Justice notified in a letter on Tuesday May 14 to a federal judge that Boeing had failed to comply with certain conditions of an agreement which avoided it being criminally prosecuted for two accidents of its 737 MAX which caused total 346 deaths, end of 2018 and beginning of 2019. With this step, “Boeing is liable to prosecution” in this file, writes in its letter the ministry, which says it is studying the possibility of actually pursuing, or not, the American aircraft manufacturer, in the middle of a storm after several recent incidents.

“We believe we have honored the conditions of this agreement”reacted Boeing in a press release, saying it was ready to “answer” on this case managed by a federal judge in Texas.

A financial agreement

Federal authorities “determined that Boeing violated its obligations” of the agreement “failure to have planned, implemented and enforced a program” aimed at complying with US laws “on all of its operations”notes the letter from the ministry. “For failing to fully follow the terms and obligations” of the agreement, “Boeing is liable to prosecution by (the federal government) for any criminal offense known to the prosecution, we can still read on this legal document.

On January 7, 2021, Boeing concluded an agreement with the American authorities for an amount of $2.5 billion. Through this financial agreement, the manufacturer admitted to having committed fraud, in exchange for the abandonment by the Ministry of Justice of some of the prosecutions targeting it since the two accidents which left 346 dead and led to the immobilization of the 737 MAX for 20 months. On October 29, 2018, a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crashed into the sea about ten minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing 189 people. The following March 10, the same Ethiopian Airlines model crashed six minutes after takeoff near Addis Ababa, killing 157 people.

“A huge victory”

Tuesday’s decision is “a huge victory”reacted to AFP Catherine Berthet, who lost her daughter Camille in the Ethiopian Airlines accident. “We will fight for a trial for involuntary manslaughter on the part of Boeing and its executives”.

Since the beginning of 2023, Boeing has had production problems linked to poor quality control, affecting its flagship aircraft, the 737 MAX, and the 787 Dreamliner. The in-flight loss of a cap holder on January 5 on a new Alaska Airlines plane initiated a game of dominoes that has already caused the downfall of several Boeing managers – such as its boss Dave Calhoun, whose departure is scheduled for the end 2024 – and the limitation of its production of 737 MAX. These latest incidents have increased the authorities’ attention to the reliability of its devices and its compliance with safety procedures.

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