October 6, 2017 / 5:12 PM / a year ago

Munich prosecutors say nearing end of Austrian Eurofighter probe

VIENNA (Reuters) - Munich prosecutors said on Friday they expect to complete their investigations into Airbus’s $2 billion sale in 2003 of Eurofighter combat jets to Austria.

The deal has been the subject of investigation by Austrian and German prosecutors for years.

“Our investigation is about to come to an end. We aim to complete the proceeding soon,” a spokeswoman for Munich prosecutors said, but declined to comment on a report by German weekly Der Spiegel that said the authority would file charges soon.

The Munich authority is focusing on whether money supposedly spent on so-called offset deals, which are common in large arms deals to provide business for local firms, was instead used to influence decision-makers on the main sale.

Munich prosecutors are investigating 16 people on suspicion of breach of trust, according to the spokeswoman.

Airbus, which has repeatedly denied all allegations, said when asked for comment: “Neither the prosecutors’ investigations in Munich and Vienna nor our own extensive investigations have led to evidence suggesting bribery in connection with the sale of Eurofighter jets to Austria.”

Vienna prosecutors are pursuing a separate investigation into allegations of fraud against Airbus and the Eurofighter industrial consortium based on complaints from the Austrian defense ministry, which is seeking up to 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in compensation.

Last month Airbus again denied any wrongdoing in a submission to the Austrian prosecutors and threatened the country’s defense minister with legal action.

The Munich prosecutors are investigating where millions of euros ended up which Airbus - EADS at the time - paid to a now defunct company between 2005 and 2010, the spokeswoman said.

The Austrian proceedings continue independently of the German investigation, a Vienna prosecutor’s spokesman said, adding that he could not say when a decision might be taken on whether to file charges.

An Austrian parliamentary inquiry into the Eurofighter deal found no evidence of bribery or that Airbus and its partners illegally influenced Austrian politicians.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, additional reporting by Alexander Huebner in MUNICH; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Greg Mahlich

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