Austria’s Federal Ministry of Defence and Sports (FMDS) on February 16 filed a criminal complaint with the Vienna Office of Public Prosecutions accusing Airbus Defence and Space and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug of “willful and fraudulent deception” over the sale of 15 Eurofighters. The Austrian government told a press conference it is seeking damages of up to €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) relating to an order placed in 2003.
In a hastily issued statement the Airbus group indicated that the allegations are unfounded and said that it will continue to cooperate with the investigation. “As the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence did not discuss the matter with Airbus prior to the announcement, the company learned about the allegations from the media today and it is lacking substantial information. We cannot see any foundation in particular for the allegations of bad faith and fraud,” the European company said in the written statement.
The sudden initiation of legal action is based on an investigation by a government-appointed investigator called Task Force Eurofighter established by FMDS in 2012 and led by Major General Hans Hamberger. The complaint says that Airbus and its Eurofighter subsidiary deceived the Austrian government over the purchase price for the aircraft and over “the true ability to deliver and true specifications of the Eurofighter interceptor planes.” In particular, the government is alleging that Airbus and Eurofighter did not disclose that almost 10 percent of the €1.9 billion purchase price (€183.4 million) related to the cost of offset transactions.