By Robert Wall
European plane maker Airbus SE Saturday said it is seeking to bring to a close a high-profile corruption case in Germany involving the export of combat aircraft and that it has suffered an unrelated legal setback in Taiwan in a long-running contract dispute with the government there.
Airbus has been grappling for years with globe-spanning allegations of corporate wrongdoing, including bribery, the illegal use of middlemen to win deals, and other misdeeds. The U.S. last year began investigating Airbus for potentially breaching arms export rules. Kuwaiti authorities last month said they were opening a probe into alleged corruption on a helicopter contract.
One of the most visible cases hanging over Airbus has been the accusation of wrongdoing on the sale from the company's Germany-based defense unit of Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets to Austria more than a decade ago. The Austrian government filed a criminal complaint last February against Airbus, seeking over $1 billion in restitution. German and Austrian authorities have probed the deal, finalized in 2003.
Last year, Austrian authorities said they were investigating several Airbus officials, including Chief Executive Tom Enders, for their involvement in the deal. Airbus last month announced Mr. Enders wouldn't seek a new contract when his current one expires next year. Mr. Enders has said the allegations in Austria were unsubstantiated.
The German public prosecutor in Munich has said it was winding up its investigation and would decide whether to bring charges against the company.
Airbus on Saturday said in a statement it was in talks with the Munich authorities to bring an end the investigation. It didn't comment on the nature of any settlement being discussed. Airbus said it would disclose the results of its talks with the Munich authorities once they were completed. Airbus has said it is cooperating with the various probes.
Separately, the company said an arbitration court in Taiwan has granted the government a EUR104 million ($127 million) award in a contractual dispute on a missile deal that dates back to 1992.
Mr. Enders, who in recent years has taken steps for Airbus to bolster it legal compliance programs, has said he was trying to get the issues hanging over the company resolved. "Today's disclosure on the arbitral award relating to a case dating back as far as 26 years symbolizes the progress Airbus is making in its efforts to overcome legacy legal issues, " a company spokesman said.
Airbus still has multiple other legal disputes under way. French and British authorities are investigating the company for failing to disclose the use of middlemen on commercial plane deals. Airbus said it alerted authorities to the wrongdoing and was cooperating. Mr. Enders last year warned resolving the issue could take time and be costly.
Write to Robert Wall at [email protected]