A team of ‘ethics doctors’ was appointed yesterday to review anti-corruption procedures at EADS, the European aerospace and defence group, following the launch of the second criminal investigation into allegations of bribing officials to win orders.
The wounded giant, still reeling after last month’s failed merger attempt with the British defence contractor BAE Systems, pledged to make the findings public.
It has hired consultants from ETHIC Intelligence, a company formed by Philippe Montigny, formerly of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and one of the authors of its anti-corruption convention.
ETHIC Intelligence’s website said that it specialised in helping companies avoid the pitfalls of working in “difficult countries” although the move was triggered by allegations of inducements to Austrian offics to buy Eurofighter jets.
That followed on from Britain’s Serious Fraud Office opening a criminal investigation in August into allegations that EADS bribed Saudi Arabian officials to win a €3.3 billion contract to provide communications and intranet services for the Saudi National Guard.
“This compliance readiness test will start immediately and should bring first results by the end of February,” said EADS yesterday.
“The group fully cooperates with the respective authorities on on-going compliance investigations.”
Public prosecutors in Austria and Germany said this month that they had raided several EADS sites in Germany in an investigation into whether bribes were paid, as part of a year-long investigation into suspicions of money-laundering and fraud.
Reinhold Mitterlehner, the Austrian Economy Minister, said that he was concerned about the deal as some parties who had initially argued for other suppliers had suddenly changed their minds.
“I am convinced that everything did not proceed cleanly during the purchase of the interceptor planes,” he said in an interview published in the OberoesterreichischeNachrichtennewspaper yesterday [THURSDAY].
A spokeswoman for the ministry said that it had supplied information to state prosecutors and was awaiting the outcome of their investigations.
In 2002, the Austrian Government ordered 18 Eurofighter jets for around €2 billion.
Vienna prosecutor’s office said that investigators were now going through hundreds of files seized from the EADS offices.
Tom Enders, the EADS chief executive, said: “I take these allegations very seriously, and EADS is fully cooperating with the public prosecutors on this matter. However, before having the full picture of what seems to be a very complex matter, we should not rush into conclusions.”
EADS said yesterday that it had not reacted quickly enough when the Saudi allegations, first made public in August, were raised internally several years ago.
Following a whistleblower’s claims, internal audits in 2010 did not reveal any illegal payments, EADS said. Another review between November 2011 and March 2012 by PricewaterhouseCoopers also found no evidence of improper payments, EADS said.