Lockheed bribery scandals

Lockheed F-104G Starfighter in Luftwaffe markings

The Lockheed bribery scandals encompassed a series of bribes and contributions made by officials of U.S. aerospace company Lockheed from the late 1950s to the 1970s in the process of negotiating the sale of aircraft.[1]

The scandal caused considerable political controversy in West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan. In the U.S. the scandal nearly led to the downfall of the corporation, which was already struggling due to the commercial failure of the L-1011 TriStar airliner.


The U.S. Government had bailed out Lockheed in 1971, guaranteeing repayment of $195 million in bank loans to the company. The Government Emergency Loan Guarantee Board, set up to oversee the program, investigated whether Lockheed violated its obligations by failing to tell the board about foreign payments.[2]

In late 1975 and early 1976, a sub-committee of the U.S. Senate led by Senator Frank Church concluded that members of the Lockheed board had paid members of friendly governments to guarantee contracts for military aircraft.[3] In 1976, it was publicly revealed that Lockheed had paid $22 million in bribes to foreign officials[2] in the process of negotiating the sale of aircraft including the F-104 Starfighter, the so-called "Deal of the Century".[4][5]

West Germany

Franz Josef Strauss – 1982

Former Lockheed lobbyist Ernest Hauser told Senate investigators that West German Minister of Defence Franz Josef Strauss and his party had received at least $10 million for the purchase of 900 F-104G Starfighters in 1961. The party and its leader denied the allegations, and Strauss filed a slander suit against Hauser. As the allegations were not corroborated, the issue was dropped.[6]

In September 1976, in the final phase of the West German federal election, the controversy was re-opened when questions were asked about the whereabouts of the "Lockheed documents" within the Federal Ministry of Defence. Anonymous sources also distributed several, possibly falsified, documents to the media. According to one of these documents, member of the German Bundestag and its defense council Manfred Wörner accepted an invitation by Lockheed to visit their aircraft plants in the US with the entire trip being paid by Lockheed.[7] In the course of the investigations, it emerged that most of the documents related to the Starfighter purchase had been destroyed in 1962. The whereabouts of the documents was again discussed in a committee of inquiry meeting of the Bundestag between January 1978 and May 1979.[3] An investigation of Lockheed documents by the U.S. revealed that Wörner's trip had been financed by the German Bundestag, and was related to a test flight with the Lockheed S-3 Viking. Only part of the travel costs of Wörner's secretary, and Wörner's flight back from the US to Germany was paid by Lockheed:

Wörner was accompanied by his secretary and a portion of her expenses were paid by Lockheed. Further, Wörner "lost" his government paid ticket back to Germany and Lockheed "accommodated" him by giving him another ticket.[8]


The Italian branch of the Lockheed scandal involved the bribery of Christian Democrat and Socialist politicians to favor the purchase by the Italian Air Force of C-130 Hercules transport planes. The allegations of bribery were supported by political magazine L'Espresso, and targeted former Cabinet ministers Luigi Gui and Mario Tanassi, the former Prime Minister Mariano Rumor and then-President Giovanni Leone, forcing him to resign his post on June 15, 1978.[9]


An All Nippon Airways L-1011 at Osaka International Airport in 1992

The scandal involved the Marubeni Corporation and several high-ranking members of Japanese political, business and underworld circles, including Finance Minister Eisaku Sato and the JASDF Chief of Staff Minoru Genda. In 1957, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force wished to buy the Grumman F11F-1F Super Tiger to replace the F-86 Sabre then in service, but heavy lobbying by Lockheed of the key LDP figures led to the adoption of the F-104 instead.

Later, Lockheed hired right-wing nationalist underworld figure Yoshio Kodama as a consultant in order to influence Japanese parastatal airlines, including All Nippon Airways (ANA), to buy the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar instead of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. On February 6, 1976, the vice-chairman of Lockheed told the Senate subcommittee that Lockheed had paid approximately $3 million in bribes to the office of Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka for aid in the matter.[10]

Lockheed paid ¥2.4 billion to earn the contract from ANA. ¥500 million of the total was received by the Prime Minister. ¥160 million was received by ANA's officials. ¥1.7 billion was received by Kodama.[11] On October 30, 1972, ANA announced its decision to purchase 21 Lockheed L-1011 Tristars, which cost approximately $5 million each, even though it had previously announced options to purchase the DC-10.[12]

In March 1976, in a protest at the scandal, actor Mitsuyasu Maeno made a suicide attack on Kodama's Tokyo home by crashing a light aircraft onto it.[13]

Tanaka was arrested on July 27, 1976 and was released in August on a ¥200 million ($690,000) bond. He was found guilty by a Tokyo court on October 12, 1983 for violations of foreign exchange control laws but not on bribery. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but remained free on appeal until his death in 1993.[14][15]


The Dutch Prince Bernhard and Queen Juliana returning from Italy because of developments in the Lockheed scandal. In the back seat Juliana with her dog Sara. The Netherlands, August 26, 1976.

Prince Bernhard received a $1.1 million bribe from Lockheed to ensure the Lockheed F-104 would win out over the Mirage 5 for the purchase contract. He had served on more than 300 corporate boards or committees worldwide and had been praised in the Netherlands for his efforts to promote the economic well-being of the country.

Prime Minister Joop den Uyl ordered an inquiry into the affair, while Prince Bernhard refused to answer reporters' questions, stating: "I am above such things".[16] The results of the inquiry led to a constitutional crisis in which Queen Juliana threatened to abdicate if Bernhard was prosecuted. Bernhard was spared, but had to step down from several public positions and was forbidden to wear his military uniforms again.

Prince Bernhard always denied the charges, but after his death on December 1, 2004, interviews were published showing that he admitted taking the money. He said: "I have accepted that the word Lockheed will be carved on my tombstone."[17]

Saudi Arabia

Between 1970 and 1975, Lockheed paid Saudi Arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi $106 million in commissions. His commissions started at 2.5% + and eventually rose to as much as 15%. Khashoggi "became for all practical purposes a marketing arm of Lockheed. Adnan would provide not only an entree but strategy, constant advice, and analysis," according to Max Helzel, then vice president of Lockheed's international marketing.[18]


Lockheed chairman of the board Daniel Haughton and vice chairman and president Carl Kotchian resigned from their posts on February 13, 1976. The scandal also played a part in the formulation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which President Jimmy Carter signed into law on December 19, 1977, which made it illegal for American persons and entities to bribe foreign government officials.

According to Ben Rich, director of Lockheed's Skunk Works:

Lockheed executives admitted paying millions in bribes over more than a decade to the Dutch (Prince Bernhard, husband of Queen Juliana, in particular), to key Japanese and West German politicians, to Italian officials and generals, and to other highly placed figures from Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia, in order to get them to buy our airplanes. Kelly [referring to Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, first team leader of the Skunk Works] was so sickened by these revelations that he had almost quit, even though the top Lockheed management implicated in the scandal resigned in disgrace.[19]

See also

Further reading


  1. "Lockheed Agrees to Pay Record Fine : Aerospace: Calabasas firm pleads guilty in connection with bribing an Egyptian politician". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  2. 1 2 Time magazine August 18, 1975
  3. 1 2 Franz Josef Strauß (German language)
  4. Lockheed F-104 Starfighter at militaryfactory.com, Retrieved August 29, 2009
  5. "In 1962 Lockheed Corporation made the deal of the century by selling West Germany three hundred and fifty F-104 Starfighters..." Paul Emil Erdman, The last days of America: G.K. Hall, 1982 ISBN 0-8161-3349-2, p 24
  6. Time magazine September 13, 1976
  7. "Lockheed and the FRG". United States Department of State. September 20, 1976. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  8. "Arms Sales in Germany". United States Department of State. November 13, 1975. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  9. Philip Willan (November 12, 2001). "obituary, November 12, 2001". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  10. Gerber, Jurg; Jensen, Eric L. (2007). Encyclopedia of white-collar crime. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-313-33524-2. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  11. University of Pittsburgh, International Business Ethics: Japan
  12. Aug. 9, 1976 (August 9, 1976). "Time magazine, August 9, 1976". Time. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  13. O'Neill, Richard. Suicide Squads. Lansdowne. p. 13. ISBN 0861010981.
  14. "Kakuei Tanaka – a political biography of modern Japan: Chapter 4 The Lockheed Scandal". Rcrinc.com. Retrieved August 21, 2011.
  15. Time Magazine September 13, 1976
  16. Times article December 4, 2004
  17. Times article December 3, 2004
  18. Stengel, Richard (January 19, 1987). "Cover Stories: Khashoggi's High-Flying Realm". Time (magazine). p. 5. Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  19. Rich, Ben R. and Janos, Leo. Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed. New York: Little Brown & Co., 1994, p. 10. ISBN 0-7515-1503-5.
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