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Former Airbus boss charged with insider trading

The German former chief executive of Airbus, Gustav Humbert, was charged Wednesday with insider trading at the planemaker's parent company EADS, a legal source said.

Former Airbus boss charged with insider trading
Photo: DPA

Humbert, 58, was released on bail of €350,000 after having been charged by Judges Xaviere Simeoni and Cecile Pendaries, the source said. He had been questioned in custody since Monday.

Former EADS chief executive Noel Forgeard and the company’s former general manager, Jean-Paul Gut, have already been charged in the probe although both have denied any wrongdoing.

The French financial market regulator, AMF, in April said in a report that Humbert had sold 160,000 shares in the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company in November 2005, earning €1.685 million.

The German, who took over Airbus in June 2005 and resigned in July 2006, is suspected of having benefited from privileged information on the financial picture at Airbus.

Humbert’s lawyer, Nicolas Morvilliers, insisted that such suspicions were “unfounded” and said his client would make use of subsequent legal proceedings to defend himself.

In total 17 French and German members and former members of EADS and its main subsidiary, Airbus, are suspected of insider trading by the French regulator.

These include the present head of Airbus, German Thomas Enders, the French head of a space engineering subsidiary EADS Astrium, Francois Auque, and another Airbus manager, Fabrice Bregier, formerly chief executive of Eurocopter.

Forgeard, 61, who stepped down in July 2006, was released on May 30 after posting bail of one million euros. He made €4.3 million with the sale of 360,000 EADS shares, held in stock options.

Gut, 46, who left EADS in June of last year, allegedly sold €1.7 million in shares just months before Airbus revealed production delays with the A380 superjumbo.

He was charged with insider trading in mid-June and released on bail of €400,000.

If convicted, both men face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to 10 times the amount gained through the alleged insider trading.

The announcement in June 2006 of a six-month production delay on the new A380, the world’s largest airliner, threw EADS and its aircraft unit into crisis.

The EADS share price fell 26 percent on the stock market and Airbus launched a restructuring programme to shed 10,000 jobs.

Despite its problems, EADS reported a robust return to profit in May. Butit also acknowledged new delays, the fourth in two years, in A380 deliveries.

It announced a first quarter net profit of €285 million, exceeding analyst forecasts.

Singapore Airlines put the first A380, able to carry some 850 passengers, into commercial service in October.

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POLICE

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Germany is known for having some of the world’s strictest gun laws, but shooting incidents continue to cause concern.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Is it difficult to get a gun in Germany?

To get a gun in Germany you firstly have to obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) – and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy – or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

Applicants for a license must be at least 18-years-old and undergo what’s called a reliability check. This includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have a mental illness or any other attributes that might make them owning a gun a potential concern for authorities.

They also have to pass a “specialised knowledge test” on guns and people younger than 25 applying for their first license must go through a psychiatric evaluation.

Crucially, applicants must also prove a specific and approved “need“ for the weapon, which is mainly limited to use by hunters, competitive marksmen, collectors and security workers – not for self-defence.

Once you have a license, you’re also limited in the number of and kinds of guns you may own, depending on what kind of license you have: Fully automatic weapons are banned for everyone, while semiautomatic firearms are banned for anything other than hunting or competitive shooting.

A revolver lies on an application for the issuance of a firearms license. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

How many legal guns are there in Germany? 

According to the latest figures from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, as of May 31st, 2022, there were 5.018,963 registered guns in Germany, and 946,546 gun owners entered in the National Weapons Register (NWR).

Where are the most guns in Germany?

Most legal guns are found in rural areas and are used in hunting or shooting sports. Guns are also more widespread in the western States than in the states that make up the former East Germany, where private gun ownership was extremely limited. 

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

What about undocumented guns in Germany?

One problem in Germany is so-called ‘old’ weapons. It’s impossible to estimate how many weapons from the two world wars are still in circulation and such antiques have appeared in a number of high-profile incidents in the last few years.

The pistol hidden in a Vienna airport by Bundeswehr officer Franco A was a Unique pistol from 1917 and the 2007 murder of a police officer in Heilbronn involved a Wehrmacht pistol. 

In 2009, around 200,000 weapons were returned in a gun amnesty, but it is still unclear how many illegal weapons are still out there.

Does Germany have a gun violence problem?

Gun crime is relatively rare in Germany, which has some of the strictest gun laws in Europe and, according to the latest figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), gun-related crimes in Germany are decreasing.

In 2021, there were 9.8 percent fewer crimes committed with a firearm than the previous year, while the number of cases recorded by the police in which a firearm was used to threaten fell by 11.2 percent. Shots were fired in 4,074 of the total number of recorded cases, down 8.5 percent from 2021.

An armored weapons cabinet filled with long guns. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Friso Gentsch

Despite this, there have been several mass shootings within the past two decades, which have had a big impact on public consciousness and on gun control policy. 

Between 2002 and 2009 there were three major incidents of young men carrying out shootings at their former high schools and, in 2020, a racially motivated gunman shot and killed 11 people and injured numerous others in an attack on two shisha bars in Hanau. The perpetrator was allowed to legally possess firearms, although he had previously sent letters with right-wing extremist content to authorities.

Recently there were also shootings at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany and at a supermarket in Schwalmstadt in Hesse.

Are German gun laws about to change?

The German parliament reacted to the mass shooting incidents in the early 2000s by tightening the gun laws, and, in the wake of the Hanau attack, a new amendment is in the works, which aims to shift focus towards monitoring gun owners with extremist, right-wing views.

READ ALSO: Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

In December 2021, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) announced her intention to further tighten gun laws, as part of a plan to tackle right-wing extremism.

The authorities in charge of the protection of the constitution have been warning for some time that neo-Nazis are deliberately joining shooting clubs to obtain guns and the Federal Ministry of the Interior reports that 1.500 suspected right-wing extremists among legal gun owners.

Campaigners say more needs to be done to stop gun crime. 

Dagmar Ellerbrock, a historian and expert on weapons history at the Technical University of Dresden said: “It is high time that we try to at least make it more difficult for these political groups to find their way through the shooting associations.”

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