The first Austrian military jet fighter Eurofighter Typhoon lands at the military airport in Styrian village, Austria. Picture:  REUTERS/LEONHARD FOEGER
The first Austrian military jet fighter Eurofighter Typhoon lands at the military airport in Styrian village, Austria. Picture: REUTERS/LEONHARD FOEGER

Vienna — Austria filed a lawsuit against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium on Thursday, alleging wilful deception and fraud linked to a €2bn order for Eurofighter jets in 2003, its defence ministry said.

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

Damages could amount to €1.1bn, Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said in Vienna. The figure relates to extra costs paid for the Eurofighter compared with another bidder’s jet and higher operating expenses.

Airbus said it was unable to comment as it had only just learnt about the action through the media. "We can, however, confirm that in recent years we have supported the activities by the legal authorities, for instance through [our] own investigations," a spokesman said.

Austrian and German prosecutors have been investigating the case for years and Munich prosecutors have said they expected to complete separate preliminary proceedings by the middle of 2017

The Eurofighter consortium was not available to comment.

Austrian and German prosecutors have been investigating the case for years and Munich prosecutors have said they expected to complete separate preliminary proceedings by the middle of 2017.

Austria initially ordered 18 Eurofighter jets but reduced the order to 15 in 2007. It ordered a review of the purchase four years ago following bribery allegations. The deal was controversial from the outset and allegations surfaced almost immediately after its announcement in 2003 that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants and others via brokers for side deals that accompanied the purchase.

A European defence executive, asking not to be identified, said Eurofighter had won the deal with the lowest price.

The Eurofighter is built by a consortium comprising Britain’s BAE Systems and Italy’s Leonardo as well as Airbus, which represents the other two nations in the project: Germany and Spain.

Airbus and the consortium illegally charged nearly 10% of the purchase price of €1.96bn for so-called offset deals, according to the defence ministry’s findings.

While offset deals — which involve work being given to local companies — were part of the agreement, their cost should have been reported separately, it said in a report.

Airbus and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug, which co-ordinates the production of the aircraft, also deceived Austria about its ability and will to deliver the agreed equipment, the report said.

Reuters

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