UK fraud agency makes one arrest, launches probe into fake jet engine parts

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s Serious Fraud Office said it made one arrest on Wednesday after launching a criminal investigation into allegations that London-based firm AOG Technics had distributed fake parts for aircraft engines.

The SFO said it raided an address in the London area and seized material about possible fraud by AOG Technics, which is accused of supplying falsely documented parts for use in the world’s most-sold passenger jet engine, the CFM56.

“This investigation deals with very serious allegations of fraud involving the supply of aircraft parts, the consequences of which are potentially far-reaching,” SFO director Nick Ephgrave said in a statement.

AOG could not immediately be reached for comment.

CFM56 engines power the previous generation of Boeing 737s and about half the previous generation of Airbus A320s.

While industry sources say the parts in question are not considered critical, CFM International, a joint venture between France’s Safran and U.S. GE Aerospace, has warned that fake parts make it impossible to verify airworthiness.

Safran and GE allege AOG sold thousands of parts for the CFM56 with false certification documents, and Safran has been calling for a criminal probe since October.

The discovery over the parts has prompted airlines to ground some planes and change parts on others, but so far only a fraction, less than 1%, of the 23,000 existing CFM56 engines have been affected.

The suspected forgery came to light after reports made by a Portuguese maintenance company in June, and regulators in Britain, the United States and the European Union have since issued alerts over the parts.

The SFO said the individual it had arrested was currently being questioned, adding that it was working with regulators to determine whether there are grounds for prosecution.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton, David Milliken and David Evans)