Austria to Sue Airbus over Alleged Eurofighter Fraud

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Austria's defence ministry will sue European giant Airbus over alleged corruption and bribery linked to a controversial $2 billion sale of Eurofighter jets, an official said Thursday.

The country's largest-ever defence deal has been plagued by scandals from the very start.

"We will file a lawsuit against Airbus," defence ministry spokesman Michael Bauer told AFP. 

He said the findings of a government investigation into the 2003 deal worth around 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) will be presented later on Thursday morning.

Austria had initially ordered 24 jets but later dropped the number to 18 and then 15.

According to the Austrian Press Agency, the probe found that Airbus had misled Austria and falsely inflated the sales price.

Prosecutors in Vienna and the southern German city of Munich have also been investigating whether officials were paid millions of euros through advisory firms to secure the contract.

The initial decision to go ahead with the expensive purchase had been made in 2000, when the far-right entered a much-maligned coalition government with the conservative People's Party. 

But shortly after the contract was signed, allegations started to circulate that politicians and others involved in the deal were receiving kickbacks.

A probe was set up in 2007 to look into possible bribes, but came to no firm conclusion.

Five years later, Austrian and German authorities launched a new corruption inquiry, with Vienna now completing its side of the probe. 

Prosecutors in Munich are set to finish their preliminary proceedings later this year.

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