Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly leaves the courtroom Jan. 17 after his trial in Vienna. Mensdorff-Pouilly was cleared of bribery and money laundering while working for the British aerospace giant BAE Systems. (Dieter Nagl / AFP)
VIENNA — A colorful Austrian count was cleared Jan. 17 of laundering millions of euros (dollars) on behalf of British defense giant BAE Systems to win arms contracts in central and eastern Europe.
Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly was, however, given a two-month suspended jail sentence for the lesser crime of tampering with evidence, a court in Vienna ruled at the end of a high-profile trial.
“The whole affair stinks, but it doesn’t stink enough,” presiding judge Stefan Apostol said.
Mensdorff-Pouilly allegedly received 12.6 million euros ($16.4 million) from BAE between 2000 and 2008, which prosecutors charged was then used to grease the palms of “decision-makers” in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria to buy military jets.
The prosecution’s case was weakened by the fact that BAE reached a controversial $450-million settlement with U.S. and British authorities to settle this and other cases in 2010. Prosecutors also lacked key witnesses, such as Timothy Landon, an even more colorful character implicated in a 1970 coup in Oman who helped get the count hired by BAE in the 1990s. Landon, who was married to Mensdorff-Pouilly’s cousin, died in 2007.