El Al Paid Bribes, Its Own Probe Finds

El Al Israel Airlines paid a bribe abroad to advance the handling of a plane that had to make an emergency landing in Sofia, Bulgaria, an internal investigation conducted by the airline itself found.

The inquiry was carried out in cooperation with representatives of the airline's maintenance department, and with other employee representatives. It was recently completed.

The probe found the bribe was paid to various parties involved in transporting a replacement plane engine by land from Romania to Bulgaria and back.

When asked to comment on the case, El Al issued a statement saying: "It is not our practice to speak on internal investigations."

The land transportation of the engine was necessary because the equipment to replace the problem did not exist in Sofia. The inquiry found that, as a result of nighttime truck transportation limitations, the bribe was paid to allow the truck shipment at night and to pay the individuals who unloaded the engine.

The affected plane, a Boeing 777, had been en route from Tel Aviv to Paris in August of last year.

Two hours into the flight, it made an emergency landing due to an oil pressure problem in one of the plane's two engines. Another plane was sent to Bulgaria to fly the flight's 266 passengers on to Paris.

The Israeli airline initially intended to fly a replacement engine to Bulgaria and install it on the affected plane, but in the end a replacement of the engine required overland transport.

The loss of use of the plane caused disruptions to El Al flight's schedule to the United States and caused the airline significant financial losses.