“Sz”: smear money suspected at eads

That’s what a spokesman for the austrian investigative agency told the dpa news agency on saturday. He was responding to an article in the "suddeutsche zeitung" (saturday). Investigators in austria and germany suspect the money was used to bribe austrian decision-makers. "We assume it was around 100 to 110 million, but the exact amount is still open," said department spokesman thomas vecsey. The newspaper had reported, with reference to the public prosecutors’ offices in munich and vienna, that at least 70 million euros had been involved. A spokesman for the bavarian authorities could not initially be reached on saturday.

According to the SZ, the 13 accused include not only EADS middle managers, lobbyists and intermediaries, but also a former top manager of the aerospace company. The company could not be reached for comment on saturday afternoon. According to the report, EADS boss thomas enders has promised to support the investigating authorities. In a letter to executives, enders had recently warned of illegal means in the fight for contracts. "There is no place for fraudulent or unethical behavior at EADS," the letter read, according to media reports. There is "zero tolerance" for violations of the law.

The proceedings, which have recently come to light, concern possible irregularities in the sale of eurofighter combat aircraft to austria. The deal was worth 1.7 billion euros. In austria, it has long been suspected that bribes were involved in the purchase, which was the subject of heated debate at the time. The controversial black-blue coalition under conservative chancellor wolfgang schussel was responsible for the deal around ten years ago.

On tuesday there had been searches in germany, austria and switzerland because of it. Numerous files were seized in the process. The evaluation is expected to take months.

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