Austrian police search Dana offices in Eurofighter investigation: report


Austrian police searched the offices of U.S. automotive supplier Dana Holding Corp as part of an investigation into whether aerospace group EADS paid bribes to win a sale of Eurofighter jets, Format magazine reported on Thursday.

Format said the seven-hour search of Dana offices in the southern Austrian town of Voelklermarkt in July was to look for evidence on so-called offset deals that EADS promised in return for selling 15 fighter jets to Austria in 2003.

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A spokeswoman for Vienna prosecutors, who are handling the Eurofighter investigation and who, according to Format, ordered the Dana search, confirmed a search had taken place in July in connection with the investigation but gave no more details.

Dana did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on the report, which said the company had cited confidentiality commitments for declining to turn over documents voluntarily.

Austria last year ordered a second review of business deals linked to its $2 billion order of Eurofighter jets, aiming to settle allegations they might have been used to help cloak bribes paid to win the contract.

German prosecutors say EADS paid at least 50 million euros ($67 million) in bribes to Austrian officials.

Authorities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland raided EADS sites in November as part of investigations into suspected bribery, money laundering and fraud related to the deal.

The sale hinged on EADS guaranteeing offset deals meant to generate twice the value of jets sale for the Austrian economy, through suppliers, services or education projects.

Prosecutors suspect that many companies simply represented their normal business as offset deals to the economy ministry, which had to approve them to help EADS meet its offset target.

Allegations surfaced almost immediately that many of the supposed offset deals did not bring in any business for Austria, and that the money had ended up in the pockets of politicians, civil servants and other individuals.

EADS had competed with Sweden's Saab AB and U.S.-based Lockheed Martin Corp to win the contract.

Austria has said it might try to cancel the deal, or seek damages and a refund, if it found bribes were paid, as it is entitled to do under a clause in the contract.

($1 = 0.7492 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Louise Ireland)