Our Commercial Disputes Trainee Solicitor Aimee Thomas  looks at why the Austrian Defence Ministry is suing two Airbus companies.

The Austrian Defence Ministry has said that it will sue the aircraft manufacturer Airbus and the Euro-fighter consortium over alleged corruption, fraud and bribery for almost £1.6 billion. The Austrian Press Agency announced that a report had concluded that Airbus had falsely inflated prices during the transaction.

The allegations are in relation to an order of Euro-fighter jets in 2003. The Euro-fighter programme is a joint venture between Airbus, BAE Systems and Italy's Leonardo to provide a modern fighter jet for the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, as well as other buyers. The Austrian Defence Ministry alleges that Airbus and Euro-fighter charged nearly 10% of the purchase price for offset deals, which involved work for local contractors. This should have been charged separately, it said, and means it is suing for at least $183.4 million. 

The investigation by the ministry found that Airbus and Euro-fighter misled Austria with fraudulent intent about the purchase price, according to the Austrian Press Agency, which did not cite any sources.

Airbus have stated that "We see today's announcement as a political man-oeuvre. We are, of course, continuing our policy of actively supporting the Austrian authorities in investigating concrete suspicions."