13:50 GMT26 November 2020
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    The probe started in 2017, and stemmed from Vienna’s 2003 acquisition of 15 Eurofighter Typhoons. Authorities alleged that when the planes were delivered in 2007, instead of getting the then-new Tranche 2-series planes, the Air Force received partially used Tranche 1. Later, prosecutors discovered what they claimed was illegal lobbying by Airbus.

    A Vienna appeals court has thrown out the Austrian state’s appeal of a decision by a lower court to halt a criminal investigation into alleged fraud by Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium relating to the Air Force’s 2 billion euro ($2.4bln) purchase of more than a dozen Typhoon fighters.

    Prosecutors launched their appeal after a Vienna court ruled to end the fraud investigation in late April, citing insufficient evidence.

    In a statement on the appeal court’s decision, the office of Austrian chief legal counsel Wolfgang Peschorn said the state had failed to provide sufficient proof of any wrongdoing.

    “With that, all criminal investigations in Austria that were initiated as a result of the criminal complaint in 2017 on suspicion of fraud in connection with the Eurofighter purchase have now been brought to an end,” Peschorn’s office announced, in a statement cited by Reuters.

    Vienna held parliamentary inquiries against Airbus and Eurofighter which later turned into a criminal complaint after discovering that the Tranche 2 fighters it thought it ordered for 109 million euros apiece turned out to be older, partially used Tranche 1 fighters which cost Austria 114 million euros each. Investigators later claimed that Eurofighter had spent up to 100 million euros to lobby officials to pick the planes for the state order.

    Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner, appointed to her post in January 2020, has calculated that Vienna may have overpaid 183 million euros for the planes.

    In 2017, the Defence Ministry had announced plans to scrap their Eurofighter Typhoon fleet by 2020, citing exorbitant operational costs, but has apparently failed to find a replacement so far.

    In February, a German court ordered Airbus to pay 81.25 million euros in penalties after the completion of a corruption probe related to the Austrian Eurofighter deal.

    Eurofighter GmbH is headquartered in Bavaria, and co-ordinates the design, production and upgrade of the Eurofighter Typhoon series of fighter aircraft. The Eurofighter programme consists of four partner nations and their respective defence firms, including Airbus Defence and Space (Germany and Spain), BAE Systems (the UK), and Leonardo (Italy).

    In a related development, Airbus announced Wednesday that it had secured a contract to deliver 38 new Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Germany’s Luftwaffe. Germany already operates 141 Typhoons, with the newly ordered planes expected to replace older Tranche 1s.

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