(Bloomberg) -- As chief commercial officer of aircraft-parts supplier AOG Technics Ltd., Ray Kwong can look back on a well-rounded career at A-list companies including All Nippon Airways Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nissan Motor Co.
That, at least, is Kwong’s two-decade corporate journey on what appears to be his LinkedIn profile, from which the self-proclaimed executive beams with a broad smile and striped tie in blue hues. Trouble is that — much like the company for which Kwong now claims to work — not all is as it seems.
Kwong, if he even exists, was never employed at Nissan, or at ANA for that matter. Neither company has records of him as a former worker, they said in response to queries by Bloomberg News. His employment history could also not be verified at Mitsubishi. What is used as his profile picture turns out to be a stock photo that’s also washed up elsewhere on the Internet, from promotional material for a German textile startup to a clinic in Northbrook, Illinois.
After Bloomberg reported on the case of bogus jet-engine repair parts being investigated by regulators, a deeper dive into AOG revealed that the fabrication not only concerned components, but extended to major aspects of the company behind the scandal. The proliferation of undocumented parts has sent shock waves through an industry where every component requires verification to ensure aircraft safety, leaving manufacturers, operators and authorities scrambling to determine the fallout.
“We're talking about cowboys”
The parts supplied by AOG went into engines that power many older-generation Airbus SE A320 and Boeing Co. 737 planes, by far the most widely flown category of commercial aircraft. These single-aisle jets are used by millions of passengers each day and by most airlines, mainly on short-haul flights. Airbus said it’s aware of media reports surrounding AOG, while Boeing said it will defer to regulators on the topic.
General Electric Co. and Safran SA, who jointly make the CFM56 powerplant, say they’ve been assisting in the probe of what regulators determined were faked certification documents and unapproved parts for the engine repairs.
Bloomberg News first reported last week that European aviation regulators had determined that AOG Technics supplied bogus parts for repairs of jet engines and that “numerous” certifications for parts supplied by the company were forged, according to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
Read More: Crucial Jet-Engine Blades Among Bogus Parts Supplied by UK FirmFake Spare Parts Were Supplied to Fix Top-Selling Jet Engine
Based on the UK's Companies House records, AOG was established in 2015. The supplier of parts to third-party engine repair shops was created by Jose Zamora Yrala using the address of a three-bedroom terraced house in Hove, a sleepy residential town on the UK coast about an hour south of London.
In the ensuing years, it bounced around other residential properties in Hove and London before settling into the Nova Building, a modern office block in London’s Victoria district, according to records at Companies House.
While AOG Technics is registered at The Argyll Club, a co-working provider that lists the Nova Building among its properties, the company doesn’t actually have a physical presence at the upscale address, instead using space as a virtual office, according to a person who answered the phone at the Argyll office.
On its website, The Argyll Club offers virtual offices as one option that lets businesses rent an address for as little as £100 a month, giving them a venerable address without the cost of actually maintaining a physical office space.
“Choose the location that gives your business extra industry gravitas, or makes an enviable first impression,” Argyll says on its website.
Argyll said it’s unable to discuss agreements with clients.
AOG and Yrala have not responded to calls or messages from Bloomberg seeking comment. Kwong, AOG Technic’s purported chief commercial officer, did not respond to requests for comment via his LinkedIn profile.
“We're talking about cowboys,” said Simon Peckham, the CEO of aerospace supplier Melrose Industries Plc, who expects regulators will ultimately tighten rules around engine spare parts.
Others identified as senior managers at AOG also have a questionable pedigree. The photo identified as Executive Sales Representative Johnny Rico, who claims to have previously worked for discount airline Ryanair Holdings Plc, also features on a dentist’s practice blog. Ryanair didn’t respond to queries whether Rico was a former employee.
Similarly, stock images were used for the profile picture of people described as AOG Technics Quality Assurance Manager Michael Smith and Account Manager Martina Spencer, whose photo decorates a dementia care specialist’s website. The Spencer profile lists Siemens AG among her past work experiences on LinkedIn, although the German engineering company couldn’t find a record of her employment there.
Federica Taccogna, managing director in forensics at restructuring and advisory firm Interpath Advisory, said fake LinkedIn profiles could often be an indicator of illicit activity.
"Due diligence should easily uncover these ‘tricks’ or at least trigger further research," she said.
AOG’s business partners have meanwhile begun distancing themselves from the company. Aircraft parts distributor B&H Worldwide, which claimed to have worked with AOG on exports to Europe and the US, has deleted a press release announcing a March 2020 deal to manage the logistics of aircraft spare parts and engine materials for its Frankfurt facility. Its chief executive officer, Stuart Allen, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Another business associate, Ricardo Maquilon Chedrauy — who set up a separate company with Yrala in 2021, according to Companies House data — now says that he only listed his now-deleted stint at AOG Technics on LinkedIn “to enhance my experience” and that he in fact had never been an employee or been paid by AOG. The other business sold kitchen appliances “on Amazon to kill time during the pandemic,” he said.
Lately, though, Chedrauy said he’d lost contact with Yrala.
“I do not want anything to do with this,” Chedrauy said.
(Updates with analyst comment)
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