Airbus Issues Statement Day After Austrian Authorities Says CEO Subject of Probe

By Robert Wall Features Dow Jones Newswires

Airbus (EADSY) Chief Executive Tom Enders took the unusual step of blasting elements of the Austrian government for what he called politically motivated accusations of corruption in a combat plane deal struck more than a decade ago.

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A spokeswoman for Austria's prosecutor Wednesday said that Mr. Enders was being probed as part of a wider investigation into whether Airbus overcharged the government in the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets.

The Austrian government filed a criminal complaint in February against Airbus, seeking over $1 billion in restitution for what it claimed was wrongdoing by Airbus in winning an order for Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets signed in 2003. At the time, Mr. Enders ran the defense business of Airbus, then called European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.

Mr. Enders called the government's actions a "politically motivated abuse of the legal system."

Suspicions of corruption were raised as early as 2002, before the contract was completed, but remained unsubstantiated until 2006, when a parliamentary committee in Vienna identified suspect payments apparently related to the sale. At the time, it had little evidence of the rationale behind the payments and investigations continued. Austrian authorities are now under time pressure to act as they approach a 10-year statute of limitation.

Mr. Enders said he was only one of many unnamed individuals subject to the probe and that the company would fully cooperate with the prosecutor. But, he added, Airbus considers the allegations "unfounded and unsubstantiated."

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Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 27, 2017 07:14 ET (11:14 GMT)