Exclusive: Austria investigates Airbus CEO over suspected fraud

Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:01pm EDT
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By Kirsti Knolle

VIENNA (Reuters) - Airbus was plunged deeper into legal wrangling over past business dealings on Wednesday when Vienna prosecutors announced a fraud investigation into its chief executive in connection with a $2 billion fighter order over a decade ago.

Airbus called the accusations against CEO Tom Enders "completely unsubstantiated" after Reuters exclusively revealed the investigation, which came to light in correspondence seen by the news agency and confirmed by Vienna prosecutors.

For the second time in two months, Airbus seemed taken aback by the latest developments in a longstanding row over the Eurofighter deal, which has spawned numerous investigations that now coincide with separate probes in other countries of its passenger jet sales.

In February, Vienna prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium after the defense ministry said it believed they had misled Austria about the price, deliverability and equipment of the 2003 deal.

That investigation now involves 16 individuals including Enders, according to a list seen by Reuters.

"Upon our inquiry after initial media reports, the Vienna prosecutor this afternoon informed us for the first time that all individuals, who have been mentioned by the Republic of Austria in its statement of alleged facts, ... are under investigation," an Airbus spokesman said by email.

"This list of individuals includes, among others, Tom Enders. As we have repeatedly stated, we consider the accusations as completely unsubstantiated."

Enders and Airbus, which was called European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Company (EADS) at the time the fighter jet order was agreed, have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.   Continued...

Thomas Enders, Chief Executive Officer of EADS  speaks at a ground breaking ceremony for Airbus for its first U.S. assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Lyle Ratliff