November 16, 2012
Credit: Credit: BAE Systems
Austria may try to cancel its $2 billion contract to buy 15 Eurofighter jets from European aerospace group EADS or seek damages if it finds bribes were paid as part of the deal.
“It depends on the results of the Justice Ministry’s investigations. It is a possibility and we should then examine it,” Defence Minister Norbert Darabos told Austrian ORF radio.
Authorities said last week they had raided EADS sites in Austria, Germany and Switzerland as part of investigations into suspected bribery, money-laundering and fraud in connection with the 2003 deal.
Austria’s economy minister said in an interview published on Thursday that he was convinced the deal had not been clean, and EADS, a Franco-German venture, said it was launching an external review of its anti-corruption rules.
Austria specified at the time of the tender that the supplier would have to guarantee counter-deals that would pour twice the value of the jet contract into the local economy through suppliers, related services or education projects.
Sweden’s Saab and U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin were the other bidders.
Allegations soon surfaced that many of the counter-deals promised by EADS had no substance and money was flowing instead into the pockets of politicians, civil servants and private companies.
Questions were asked in parliament about the matter as long ago as 2006, and last year prosecutors began investigations.