(Financial Times) -- Several EADS offices in Germany were raided by German state prosecutors and police on Tuesday as part of an investigation into alleged bribes paid to smooth the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets to Austria five years ago.
The raids deepen the legal troubles of the European aerospace group, which already faces a criminal probe by the UK's Serious Fraud Office into whether its UK subsidiary GPT Special Projects bribed Saudi officials in connection with a project to supply the kingdom with military communications equipment.
The Munich prosecutor's office said the investigation had been prompted by a larger one in Austria about the possible payment of bribes to Austrian officials between 2005 and 2008. "We are now looking into the question of whether German residents broke German law by bribing officials in Austria," it said.
It added that large amounts of paper and electronic files had been confiscated and it would now take "quite a while" to sift through the documents. Any evidence could be used for prosecutions in Germany and passed on to Austrian law enforcement officials. It said the probe focused on whether advisory contracts had been used to disguise bribes.
EADS said: "We can confirm that there are investigations. We are co-operating with the authorities." It declined to comment further.
EADS is a partner with BAE Systems of the UK and Finmeccanica of Italy, in the Eurofighter consortium. The partners take turns marketing the jet to different potential customers and it was Cassidian, EADS's defence subsidiary based in Germany, that led the effort to secure the contract with Austria.
The prosecutors raided two EADS offices in the Munich area -- at a major site in Ottobrunn, and Cassidian's base in Unterschleissheim -- and the Eurofighter office at Hallbergmoos.
In June 2007 the Austria Defence Ministry signed a contract to buy 15 Eurofighters, down from the initial order of 18, and for a reduced price of about €1.63bn. The last of the 15 aircraft was delivered in 2009. The purchase was hotly debated by the country's political parties and allegations of bribery arose quickly.
In 2008 Austrian prosecutors gained valuable insights into the Typhoon deal and a separate Czech deal when they helped the UK's SFO during its investigation of allegations that Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, an Austrian lobbyist, paid bribes on behalf of BAE.
But in 2010 the SFO dropped its investigation into Mr Mensdorff-Pouilly, who had always denied any wrongdoing, after BAE cut a deal with UK prosecutors. In the deal BAE was ordered to pay more than $450m in fines by US and UK lawmakers after it pleaded guilty in the US to lying about its payments to middlemen and in the UK to accounting irregularities.
In return the UK promised to cease further prosecution of BAE in connection with the case.
Given Mr Mensdorff-Pouilly's alleged role, the upcoming Viennese trial is likely to dredge up issues BAE had hoped to have put behind it.
Additional reporting by Andrew Parker
© The Financial Times Limited 2015