Boeing Faces Criminal Probe as DOJ Investigation Begins

( – The Department of Justice has opened a probe into the January 5 door panel blowout on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max over Portland, the Washington Post reported.

Sources familiar with the matter told the Post that as part of the criminal probe, DOJ officials have already interviewed witnesses, including the pilots and crew of the flight, and a grand jury has been empaneled to examine the evidence.

In a statement over the weekend, Alaska Airlines said it was normal in such an event for the Justice Department to investigate and the airline was fully cooperating. According to Alaska Airlines, it is not a target of the investigation.

Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing’s key supplier of parts, told the Post that “multiple government agencies” had requested information from the company and Spirit was cooperating with all ongoing investigations.

CBS News reported that the investigation could affect a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement Boeing made with the Justice Department.

Under that agreement, which resolved criminal charges stemming from crashes of 737 Max planes, Boeing agreed not to violate any laws or the terms of the deferred prosecution.

A source told CBS News that the Justice Department is reviewing whether the airplane manufacturer abided by the terms of the agreement since the January 5 incident falls within the period in which Boeing was subject to the terms of the deferred prosecution.

The 2021 deferred prosecution deal was over the concealment of a critical safety flaw by Boeing personnel that resulted in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

Under the agreement, Boeing paid over $2.5 billion in penalties and admitted that technical pilots concealed from regulators a software system flaw.

The agreement also requires Boeing to fully cooperate with any investigation by the Justice Department’s criminal fraud division. It must turn over any evidence or details related to external or internal investigations.

In opening the criminal probe into the January 5 incident, the DOJ stopped short of calling for the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure compliance, saying none was needed.

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