VIENNA Dec 12 An Austrian count accused of
covertly helping Britain's biggest arms group win business in
central and eastern Europe insisted on Wednesday he served only
as a well-connected adviser who had nothing to do with bribes.
As his money laundering and perjury trial got under way in
Vienna, Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly entered not guilty pleas on all
counts and painted himself as a man whose acumen and family ties
propelled him from struggling poultry farmer to prosperity.
Prosecutor Michael Radasztics accused Mensdorff-Pouilly, 59,
of using 12.6 million euros ($16.4 million) he got from BAE
Systems via shell companies to influence weapons deals in
eastern Europe a decade ago after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
"The files show a series of indications that bribes were
paid here," he told the court, but said he did not bring bribery
charges because he could not prove who may have been paid, when
Wearing a grey suit and red print tie, Mensdorff-Pouilly
faced a gaggle of photographers and cameramen before testifying
of his beginnings trading game, poultry and snails from his
inherited estate in southeastern Austria, now a successful
It was not until his cousin married Tim Landon - a BAE
executive and former British secret agent known as the White
Sultan who once organised a coup in Oman - that the down-at-heel
aristocrat began to see fortunate smile on him.
Landon, who died five years ago, introduced him to BAE,
which hired the count to advise on why it had lost out on a
fighter jet deal in Austria. It eventually broadened his remit
to include a potentially vast new market in the former communist
countries of eastern Europe that opened after 1990.
"If you have a bit of a feel for politics and many relatives
and friends in these countries, then you have the right
connections," Mensdorff-Pouilly told the court. "I got
information that was not so easy to get."
BAE Systems, Europe's biggest defence company, was
fined $450 million by the United States and Britain in 2010,
following long-running corruption investigations at home and
abroad into defence deals in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Sweden, the
Czech Republic and Hungary.
It is not a defendant in the Austrian trial and has said it
was not asked by Austrian authorities to participate with any
Mensdorff-Pouilly faces five years in jail if convicted in
the case, which is scheduled to run into early 2013.