UPDATE 1-EADS launches external review of corruption rules

Thu Nov 15, 2012 10:02am EST

Related Topics

* EADS says to make external review findings public

* Cooperating with UK Serious Fraud Office in GPT case

* CEO says takes Eurofighter Austria case very seriously

PARIS/VIENNA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - European aerospace and defence group EADS has launched an external review of its anti-corruption rules as it faces ongoing investigations in Austria, Britain and Germany.

EADS said on Thursday it had hired ETHIC Intelligence, a certification agency specialising in "anti-corruption compliance programmes", pledging to make the findings public.

"This compliance readiness test will start immediately and should bring first results by the end of February," EADS said, adding: "The group fully cooperates with the respective authorities on on-going compliance investigations."

Public prosecutors in Austria and Germany said this month they had searched several EADS sites in Germany in an investigation into whether bribes were made as part of a sale of Eurofighter jets to Austria.

Investigations have been ongoing since 2011 and involve suspicions of bribery, money-laundering and fraud, they said.

Austrian Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said he was concerned about the deal as some parties who had initially argued for other suppliers had suddenly changed their minds.

"I am convinced that everything did not proceed cleanly during the purchase of the interceptor planes," he said in an interview published in the Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten newspaper on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said it had supplied information to state prosecutors and was awaiting the outcome of their investigations.

A spokesman for the Vienna prosecutor's office said investigators were now going through hundreds of files seized from the EADS offices.

EADS chief executive Tom Enders said: "I take these allegations very seriously, and EADS is fully cooperating with the public prosecutors on this matter."

"However, before having the full picture of what seems to be a very complex matter, we should not rush into conclusions."

Britain's Serious Fraud Office opened a criminal investigation in August into allegations EADS bribed Saudi Arabian officials to win a $3.3 billion contract for its GPT unit to provide communications and intranet services for the Saudi National Guard.

EADS said on Thursday it had not reacted quickly enough when the allegations - made public in August - were first raised internally, adding it aimed to speed up its response in any future case.

Following a whistleblower's claims, internal audits in 2010 did not reveal any illegal payments in the GPT case, EADS said. A subsequent review between November 2011 and March 2012 by PricewaterhouseCoopers also found no evidence of improper payments, EADS said.

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