Eurofighter sale

Unraveling Airbus’ murky offset deals in Austria

Eurofighter in Österreich
Hunting €100 million. Source: DPA

Airbus is flying through stormy skies. Investigators are still trying to determine the whereabouts of €100 million ($124 million) tied to the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets to Austria. Though the recipients may never be found, the missing funds are proving costly to Airbus, in fines and sky-high attorney fees.

In 2003, EADS, a European aerospace consortium which later changed its name to Airbus, struck a €2 billion deal for the sale of 18 Eurofighters to Austria. For years, officials at the prosecutor’s office in Munich have been poring over documents related to the sale. The accusations: bribery, corruption and bogus transactions.

Airbus, however, denies any wrongdoing. “We won the bid in accordance with the law,” said a company spokesman. To investigate the bribery and corruption accusations, Airbus asked Clifford Chance, the international law firm, to conduct an independent review in 2012. “Their results have been made available to the authorities,” the spokesman said. “There is no evidence of corruption.”

Handelsblatt examined more than 10,000 documents including official reports, emails and financial statements. At the heart of the investigation are so-called “offset” deals in which a supplier helps drum up business for others to offset the costs of a contract. The practice is often seen as going the extra mile for a customer, but in the case of EADS, it seems to have gone off the rails.

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