Austria sues Airbus over alleged Eurofighter fraud

Thu Feb 16, 2017 12:16pm EST
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By Kirsti Knolle and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria sued Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) and the Eurofighter consortium on Thursday, alleging wilful deception and fraud linked to a near 2 billion euro ($2.1 billion) jet order in 2003.

The defence ministry said that following an investigation it believed Airbus and Eurofighter had misled Austria about the purchase price, deliverability and equipment of the jets.

The incurred damage could amount to 1.1 billion euros, Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told a news conference in Vienna.

Airbus said it denied the accusations vigorously. "The publication of criminal charges against a listed company by means of a press conference ... is not acceptable for Airbus and can only be described as unprofessional," said a spokesman.

Eurofighter did not reply to requests for comment.

Austrian and German prosecutors have been investigating the case for years and Munich prosecutors have said they expect to complete separate preliminary proceedings by mid-year.

"As defence minister, I consider it my duty to report facts relevant for criminal prosecution and to claim compensation for the Austrian taxpayers' damage. This is what we did today," Doskozil said.

Austria had initially ordered 18 Eurofighter jets but reduced the order to 15 in 2007. It then ordered a review of the purchase four years ago following bribery allegations.   Continued...

Austria's Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil addresses a news conference in Vienna, Austria, February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader