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Aug 15 (Reuters) - Colombia's Avianca Holdings said on Thursday that internal investigators are looking into potential bribery, as the airline had in the past given free tickets and free upgrades to government officials of several countries.
The carrier said it has now discontinued the practice.
Avianca has gone through a management upheaval in recent months after longtime chairman and controlling shareholder German Efromovich was ousted in a boardroom coup in May led by United Airlines Holdings Inc, which had lent money to one of Efromovich's companies.
Efromovich had offered up his controlling stake in the company as collateral for the $450 million loan, and United said in May that he had defaulted. United has not seized the shares, but did appoint a new chairman and Avianca has a new chief executive officer as well.
The company, which is traded in the United States, said in a securities filing that it had notified the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission about the internal investigation.
The airline is investigating whether the practice was a violation of a United States law, which subjects foreign companies traded in a U.S. stock exchange to sanctions if they are found to have bribed government officials.
"Avianca Holdings is cooperating with both agencies," the filing said. "Based on the progress of the matter to date, management has not provided for any potential liability that may result from the investigation or related regulatory proceedings." (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; editing by Grant McCool)