Austria to sue Airbus over Eurofighter deal

20 February 2017
Austria is to sue manufacturer Airbus over the country's purchase of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft. Source: Bundesheer

Austria has announced it is launching a lawsuit worth up to EUR1.1 billion (USD1.17 billion) against Airbus over allegations relating to the sale of Eurofighter aircraft to the country in 2003.

The Austrian government published a 130-page legal action against Airbus on 16 February, outlining its claims against the company - the result of an investigation begun in 2012 by a dedicated Federal Ministry for National Defence and Sport (BMLVS) task force. The BMLVS is suing as an adjunct.

In response Airbus denied the accusations and called the legal offensive by Vienna's authorities "a political manoeuvre".

Austria's allegations are twofold. Firstly, that the company (then known as EADS) included EUR183 million in unnecessary future offset-related additional costs as part of the contract. Austrian defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil alleged these funds were distributed to a "criminal network" via a now-dissolved shell company registered in London called Vector Aerospace (unrelated to the Canadian company of the same name). These allegations seem linked to the raids conducted since November 2012 by German, Italian, and Austrian police investigating alleged bribery in securing the Austrian Eurofighter deal.

The second allegation is that Airbus knew it could never have met the 2007 timeline for delivering Tranche 2/Block 8 aircraft to Austria. Despite having placed their own BMLVS quality inspectors at the Airbus Eurofighter assembly line in Manching, Germany, Austria today alleges that the Eurofighter bid would not have been successful if it was known that this deadline would be missed.

Austria originally decided to buy 18 Tranche 2/Block 8 aircraft, although the first six would be Tranche 1/Block 5 aircraft. These were by contract due to later be upgraded to the T2/B8 standard; however the Austrian government is now convinced this upgrade would have been immensely costly and Airbus never actually planned to carry it out.

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