Austria steps up legal case against Eurofighter

As of July 2016, a total of 599 orders for Eurofighters had been placed. [Shutterstock]

Austria may broaden its legal proceedings against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium to US and British courts over a dispute involving the purchase of combat aircraft. EURACTIV Germany reports.

One week ago, Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil (SPÖ) announced that his ministry had filed a fraud complaint in Austria against Airbus Defence and Space GmbH, as well as Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH.

The defence ministry claims that Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium illegally charged nearly 10% of the purchase price of €1.96 billion for so-called offset deals. Those deals were included in the agreement but should have allegedly been reported separately.

It is suing for €1.1 billion which it claims is an indication of the difference in price between the Eurofighter costs and a cheaper alternative.

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A spokesman for the ministry confirmed a report by Austrian newspaper Kurier, explaining that “from the viewpoint of compliance rules in British and US American law, there are indications that the jurisdiction of English and US American authorities could be justified due to the many offset deals with US American parties”.

Airbus has previously denied any accusations of wrongdoing.

The Eurofighter affair goes back nearly to the start of the last decade. After much debate, the then ruling ÖVP-FPÖ government decided in summer 2002 to replace its fleet of Saab-built Draken aircraft, which dated back to 1963. The initial plan was for an order of 24 new aircraft to contribute to an EU task force. This number was then scaled back to 18 due to budgetary concerns.

Flash forward to 2007 and then Defence Minister Norbert Darabos (SPÖ) held behind-closed-doors negotiations that were supposed to get Vienna a better deal, to the tune of a €370 million discount.

But the number of aircraft was reduced from 18 to 15 and instead of new planes Austria was set to take delivery of used models. It became clear afterwards that this would entail more expensive maintenance costs.

The Eurofighter programme is a joint undertaking by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo, meant to provide European countries with a technically advanced fighter jet. The United Kingdom has purchased 160 of the planes.

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