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Boeing could face criminal prosecution for allegedly violating the terms of the 2021 deal, according to the federal government.

Washington — The Justice Department said it was determining whether to sue aircraft maker Boeing after federal investigators accused the company of violating the terms of an agreement. Deferred Prosecution Agreement 2021according to a letter filed Tuesday in a Texas court.

In January 2021 — continued two accidents of the 737 Max planes years earlier that killed 346 people – Boeing and the federal government reached a deal in which the company agreed to pay a $2.5 billion settlement and meet custody stipulations in exchange for the Department of Justice dropping the fraud conspiracy charge after three years.

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

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

“For failing to fully comply with the terms and obligations of the DPA, Boeing is subject to legal action by the United States for any federal criminal violations,” Justice Department officials wrote in the letter. “The government is determining how it will proceed in this matter.”

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

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

The news comes more than five months after the cabin door of an Alaska Airlines plane was opened. exploded in mid-flight, triggering investigations by Congress and the federal government. In March, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to CBS News that prosecutors were investigating whether anything that led to or contributed to the eruption could affect the agreement to defer prosecution.

There was no mention of the Alaska Airlines flight in the letter.

In a statement provided to CBS News Tuesday evening, a Boeing spokesperson acknowledged that the company had received the letter and said that “we believe we have honored the terms of this agreement and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the department In doing so, we will work with the ministry with the greatest transparency, as we have done throughout the life of the agreement, including in response to their questions following the accident of Alaska Flight 1282 Airlines.

A former quality manager who exposed Spirit AeroSystems, a struggling Boeing supplier that builds most of the 737 Max, told CBS News he came under pressure to downplay problems he had discovered while inspecting the plane’s fuselages. Speaking publicly for the first time last week, Santiago Paredes said he often encountered problems inspecting the area around the door panel of the plane that took off on Alaska Flight 1282 Airlines just minutes after taking off from Portland, Oregon on January 5.

Last month, families of some of the 737 Max crash victims met with Justice Department officials to provide an update on the case against Boeing. In their Tuesday letter, prosecutors told the judge that the Justice Department “will continue to speak with family members of the victims of the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302″ and that the Department of Justice “informed the victims separately. and airline customers today of the determination of the violation.”

“This is a positive first step, and for the families it will take time,” Paul Cassell, an attorney who represents the families of some of the 737 crash victims, said in a statement. “But we need further action from the Justice Department to hold Boeing accountable and plan to use our May 31 meeting to further explain what we believe to be a satisfactory remedy for the current criminal conduct of Boeing.”

Robert A. Clifford, another attorney representing family members of victims of one of the 737 crashes, said in a statement: “This is Boeing’s way of being held criminally liable in court.” This is what the families wanted. to what actually happened during the accidents and so that the safety of the public is protected.”

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

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


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