VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria’s defense minister said on Tuesday he stands by his legal complaint against Airbus (PA:AIR) about allegations of fraud over a $2 billion fighter deal but still considers an eventual out-of-court settlement an option.
Vienna prosecutors are investigating Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium (L:BAES) (MI:LDOF) following a complaint by the defense ministry, which is seeking up to 1.1 billion euros, over the 2003 jet purchase.
In a submission to the prosecutors on Monday, Airbus denied any wrongdoing and threatened Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil with legal action for disregarding the presumption of innocence in this case.
Speaking to OFR radio on Tuesday, Doskozil appeared undaunted in pursuit of a settlement either in or out of court.
“Of course we are sticking to our representations of the facts (to prosecutors) and our criminal charge”, the minister said.
“It does not matter to me in what way the damage to the tax payer will be repaid eventually, in a settlement outside of court or via a court decision.”
Airbus has clashed with other European governments, notably Germany, before, but the row with Austria is unique in its fury. Doskozil said Austria was also preparing a lawsuit based on U.S. rules.
One of Austria’s main allegations is that Airbus deceived it about so-called offset deals intended to boost the local economy which were required to agree the purchase.
Offset deals, where a defense supplier will select local companies to do some of the work, are a common requirement of governments looking to support domestic skills and technology.