Austria checks Eurofighter deals amid bribery probe

Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:27am EST
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By Michael Shields and Angelika Gruber

VIENNA Nov 29 (Reuters) - Austria ordered a fresh review of business deals linked to its $2 billion order of Eurofighter jets in 2003, aiming to settle allegations they might have been used to help cloak bribes paid to win the contract.

German prosecutors have alleged aerospace group EADS paid at least 50 million euros ($63.5 million) in bribes to Austrian officials to secure the sale of 15 Eurofighters.

Authorities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland raided EADS sites this month as part of investigations into suspected bribery, money laundering and fraud related to the deal.

The sale hinged on EADS guaranteeing offset deals meant to generate twice the value of the transaction for the Austrian economy, through suppliers, services or education projects.

It is alleged that many companies represented their normal business as offset deals to the Austrian economy ministry which had to approve them to help EADS meet its target.

Allegations surfaced almost immediately the deal was announced that many of the supposed offset deals did not bring in any business for Austria, but that money ended up in the pockets of politicians, civil servants and other individuals via brokers for the side deals.

Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said on Thursday a task force would take another look at the offset deals.

"Our goal is complete transparency to be able to undertake a serious overall evaluation of the offset deals," Mitterlehner said in a statement, pledging full cooperation with prosecutors.   Continued...