A scandal over dubious transfers of millions of euros is creating turbulence for European defense giant EADS. If suspicions by investigators that the company committed corruption in a deal to sell Eurofighters to Austria are proven, it could mean the end of the sale -- and billions in losses.
Three features at his home in the posh Hamburg neighborhood of Rothenbaum confirm that businessman Frank Walter P. doesn't like to receive spontaneous visitors. First, there's the security camera that hangs at the entrance to his apartment building. Second, there's the fish-eye lens at the door to the building. Third, there's the doormat upstairs in front of his apartment with the inscription "My home is my castle."
And this brings us to a fourth one: his daughter, who announces over the intercom that her father is not available. For how long? the visitors ask. "For the next few weeks," she answers.
Normally that would be enough to keep unwanted visitors at bay. But the visitors who rang the doorbell last Thursday were rather insistent -- and they had brought along a door-opener that's even effective on castle gates: a search warrant.
Frank Walter P., 50, a banker by trade, with addresses in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Munich and the Austrian state of Tyrol -- and with at least as many companies as residences -- is under investigation on suspicions of distributing money in an alleged multimillion euro corruption scandal.
The scandal has already been shaking Austria for a number of years, right up to the top political echelons. Now, the affair is spreading to Germany. At the center of attention is the European Aeronautics Defense and Space Company's (EADS) German headquarters in Ottobrunn, near Munich.
During the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Austria, an estimated €113.5 million ($144 million) is believed to have been transferred from EADS to the accounts of dubious companies. One of these accounts reportedly belongs to Frank Walter P.'s Comco International Business Development, located in the tax haven of the Isle of Man.
Were Bribes Paid?
These funds were purportedly intended to kick-start investments in Austria that EADS had agreed to as part of the Eurofighter deal. But public prosecutors in Vienna and Munich suspect that the millions of euros may have been used to bribe Austrian decision-makers -- or as kick-back payments to greedy EADS managers -- or perhaps to establish slush funds within the consortium.
Last Tuesday, 54 officials representing the public prosecutor's office and Munich tax fraud investigators, searched apartments and offices at three different EADS locations in Germany. The alleged offenses listed on the search warrants were as follows: "Collective bribery in coincidence with aggravated breach of trust."
This means that German politics has also been engulfed by the affair. Indeed, EADS is no ordinary company -- and it remains a top priority matter in Berlin. The Chancellery and the Economics Ministry are closely following the events in Munich and Vienna. After all, this concerns a company that has been provided with billions in taxpayers' money since the turn of the millennium. EADS, whose subsidiary Airbus provides over 10,000 well-paid jobs in Hamburg alone, serves as a showcase for German and European high-tech superiority. (end of excerpt)
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