PARIS — Airbus has denied Austria's accusation of alleged fraud on a 2003 order worth €1.96 billion (US $2.08 billion) for 15 Eurofighter Typhoon jets.
"Airbus is surprised by today's press conference by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence raising criminal allegations … against Airbus Defence and Space GmbH, a division of Airbus, and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, alleging willful deception and fraud linked to the order for Eurofighter jets back in 2003," Airbus said in a statement Thursday.
"We cannot see any foundation in particular for the allegations of bad faith and fraud," Airbus said.
The Austrian Defense Ministry had not contacted Airbus before announcing its launch of a lawsuit, and the first the company heard was through news reports, Airbus said.
The ministry had earlier issued a statement that a criminal complaint had been filed accusing Airbus and Eurofighter of "willingly and fraudulently" deceiving Austria on the "true purchase price as well as to the true ability to deliver and true specifications of the Eurofighter interceptor planes."
A Eurofighter Typhoon comes into land at Royal Air Force Fairford in July 2016 in Fairford, England. The Eurofighter is built by BAE Systems of Britain, Italy's Leonardo, and the German and Spanish Airbus units.
Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
That lawsuit claimed damages of at least €183.4 million and could reach €1.1 billion, the ministry said.
Part of the claim is a failure of Airbus and Eurofighter to tell Austria the purchase price of €1.96 billion included almost 10 percent, or €183.4 million, for the cost of offsets on the deal. Austria had asked for those offsets, which allocate work to local firms, to be billed separately.
"Offset deals are obviously an ideal launcher for corruption, misery and money laundering," Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told a news conference in Vienna, Reuters reported.
There were also further damages based on operating costs, which could not be quantified, the ministry said. The lawsuit was based on findings of the Task Force Eurofighter formed in 2012 at the ministry's request to probe corruption allegations.
"My concern is the full and final settling of the Eurofighter purchase, which has been subject to corruption allegation for 15 years," Doskozil said in the ministry statement.
Austrian Maj. Gen. Hans Hamberger speaks to journalists during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Vienna on Feb. 16, 2017. The ministry said it will sue European aircraft manufacturer Airbus over a sale of Eurofighter jets that has long been plagued by allegations of kickbacks.
Photo Credit: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images
Airbus said the allegations were "a political manoeuvre," the BBC reported. Austria initially ordered 24 Eurofighters in 2002 and then cut that to 15.
The Eurofighter is built by BAE Systems of Britain, Italy's Leonardo, and the German and Spanish Airbus units.
The Austrian Defense Ministry has also set up a commission to look into the replacement of a fleet of Saab 105 OE aircraft by 2020, the minister said in an official statement. The commission is due to report by the end of June.