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Boeing could face criminal charges after violating the terms of the 2021 agreement, the FBI says

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Washington – The Justice Department said it is deciding whether to prosecute aircraft manufacturer Boeing after federal investigators accused the company of violating the terms of an agreement. 2021 Deferred Prosecution AgreementThis is evident from a letter submitted on Tuesday to a court in Texas.

In January 2021 – afterward two crashes of the 737 Max jets years earlier that killed 346 people – Boeing and the federal government struck a deal in which the company agreed to pay a $2.5 billion settlement and abide by custodial provisions in exchange for charges being dropped for Justice Department conspiracy after three years.

That three-year period, overseen by a federal judge in Texas, was set to expire in July and would have resulted in the Justice Department closing the case if it had determined that Boeing had fully complied with the terms.

But on Tuesday, federal prosecutors wrote that Boeing “breached its obligations” under the deferred prosecution agreement, in part by allegedly failing “to design, implement and enforce a compliance and ethics program to address violations of U.S. to tackle fraud laws across its business. .” activities.”

“For failure to fully comply with the terms and obligations under the DPA, Boeing is subject to prosecution by the United States for any federal criminal violation,” Justice Department officials wrote in the letter. “The government will determine how to proceed in this matter.”

The letter argued that investigators are no longer bound by the 2021 agreement and are “not limited” in their investigation of the aircraft manufacturer.

Boeing has until June 13 to respond to the Justice Department’s allegations and their explanation will be used as prosecutors consider their next step, the filing said.

The news comes more than five months after the cabin door of an Alaska Airlines plane broke canceled mid flight, prompting congressional and federal investigations. In March, someone familiar with the case came forward confirmed to CBS News that prosecutors were investigating whether anything that led to or contributed to the outburst could affect the deferred prosecution agreement.

The letter made no mention of the Alaska Airlines flight.

In a statement to CBS News Tuesday evening, a Boeing spokesperson acknowledged that the company had received the letter and said that “we believe we have met the terms of that agreement and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the Department.” As we do this, we will work with the Department with the utmost transparency, as we have throughout the life of the agreement, including in response to their questions following the Alaska Airlines 1282 accident.

A former quality manager who blew the whistle on Spirit AeroSystems, a troubled Boeing supplier that builds most of the 737 Max, told CBS News he was pressured to downplay the problems he discovered while inspecting the plane’s fuselages. Santiago Paredes said publicly for the first time last week that he often encountered problems inspecting the area around the same door panel of the plane that flew on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on January 5, just minutes after it took off from Portland, Oregon.

Last month, families of some of the 737 Max victims met with Justice Department officials for an update on the case against Boeing. In their letter Tuesday, prosecutors told the judge that the Justice Department “will continue to consult with the family members of the victims of the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Syrian Airlines Flight 302,” and that the Justice Department “will assist the victims individual customers and airlines today informed of the discovery of the breach.”

“This is a positive first step, and one that will last a long time for the families,” Paul Cassell, an attorney representing the families of some victims of the 737 crashes, said in a statement. “But we need to see further action from the DOJ to hold Boeing accountable, and plan to use our May 31 meeting to explain in more detail what we believe would be a satisfactory resolution to Boeing’s ongoing criminal conduct. ”

Robert A. Clifford, another attorney representing family members of victims of one of the 737 crashes, said in a statement: “This is a way for Boeing to be held criminally liable in court. That’s what the families wanted. They want answers to what really happened in the crashes and want to protect the safety of the public.”

The Justice Department declined to comment further when reached by CBS News.

— Kris Van Cleave, Michael Kaplan and Sheena Samu contributed to this report.