(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s top fraud authorities raided the home of the director at the center of a global scandal over bogus airplane parts and arrested him for suspected fraud, marking the first public move by an agency to criminally pursue the scheme.
The Serious Fraud Office arrested AOG Technics Ltd.’s director, Jose Alejandro Zamora Yrala, in a dawn action at his home address on the outskirts of London on Wednesday. The SFO is working alongside the Civil Aviation Authority on the investigation.
The SFO didn’t identify Zamora as the individual arrested, while saying it also seized materials in the probe. Zamora didn’t respond to phone and text messages seeking comment on Wednesday. One individual is currently being questioned, the agency said in a statement.
AOG is alleged to have sold parts backed by false documents to fix jet engines around the globe. It has been in business since 2015 and allegedly sold parts overseas and to some UK airlines, maintenance shops and other suppliers, the SFO said.
The investigation “involves the supply of parts to airlines not just in this country but in other countries as well which obviously raises concerns,” Nick Ephgrave, the director of the SFO, said in an interview at its London headquarters.
“We are now going through front doors, making arrests, and seizing properties. So that is very rapid progress, particularly for the SFO because our cases often necessarily take a long while,” he said.
The aviation industry’s hard-earned reputation for safety has been dented by concerns that engine parts may have been sold with false documentation and fitted onto jetliners around the world.
The scandal, first reported by Bloomberg, has sent airlines scrambling to inspect their fleets for so-called suspected unapproved parts.
Safety regulators in the UK, US and European Union issued alerts earlier this year to businesses that may have used the parts, and the agencies “continue to manage the safety implications involved,” the SFO said.
A small number of UK aircraft were temporarily taken out of service as a precaution, the CAA said in a separate statement. “We will continue to support the Serious Fraud Office as they open their criminal investigation into AOG Technics,” it said.
All the major US carriers, along with Ryanair Holdings Plc and Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, are among the operators that are investigating engine parts and associated documentation. Airlines have had to pull aircraft out of service as part of these investigations.
The suspected issue appears to concern CFM56 turbines, which power older-generation Airbus SE A320 and Boeing Co. 737 jets. They remain by far the most widely flown engines in the global airline fleet, with more than 22,000 units still in service. A CFM56-powered aircraft takes off every two seconds somewhere on the planet.
--With assistance from Kate Duffy and Sabah Meddings.
(Updates with timing of raid, materials seized from second paragraph)
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