BAE ‘bribery’ lobbyist faces new investigations

Austrian prosecutors will continue to investigate lobbyist Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, it has emerged.Mensdorff-Pouilly, who owns real estate in Austria and Scotland, has returned to Austria after spending five days in custody in London last month.The husband of former People’s Party (ÖVP) Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat was accused of bribery and facilitation of corruption, but Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) dropped the charges – after British defence company BAE Systems struck a deal with UK and US authorities.The firm agreed to pay 320 million Euros to authorities after admitting to criminal charges in response to long-standing corruption allegations in both countries.SFO was investigating allegations that Mensdorff-Pouilly had made illegal payments of around 12 million Euros in return for contracts to deliver Gripen fighter jets produced by BAE Systems to Central and Eastern European countries.Mensdorff-Pouilly has denied his release had anything to do with the payout deal the firm and authorities had agreed on. Opposition politicians and representatives of the governing Social Democrats (SPÖ) were outraged by the 320-million-Euro deal.SPÖ Defence Minister Norbert Darabos branded the agreement a “sale of indulgence”.Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Viennese state prosecution, said today prosecutors had looked at documents SFO had based its decision on. “We came to the conclusion that their decision was not binding on us,” he said.Jarosch added that prosecutors still had to wait for further sealed documents to arrive from the UK.He claimed, however, that laws that prevented authorities from trying someone for the same offence in two Schengen agreement states were no hindrance to continuation of an investigation.Mensdorff-Pouilly has always denied wrongdoing in his lobbying activity for BAE Systems between 2002 and 2008.He caused controversy by accusing UK authorities of “ignoring human rights” in an interview in Austrian magazine News.Speaking about his seven-day detention in the British capital, he said: “Custody in Austria happens in correct ways – if it’s possible to find positive attributes of such a condition. Things are at least correct there – unlike in London, where human rights are not exactly respected.”Mensdorff-Pouilly, who spent five weeks in custody last year in Vienna, claimed that UK officers had taken away all his medications and returned them to him only on the last day of his detention.”I wasn’t given decent underwear despite having asked for it several times. And they didn’t give me a comb,” the 56-year-old said, adding: “I successfully asked for a vaccination against Hepatitis B after I discovered stubble in the used disposable razor I was given.”Mensdorff-Pouilly also said he was “just a ball in a game” by officials to increase pressure on BAE Systems. “They [the SFO] had nothing on BAE but wanted to indicate they had by showing that ‘we are even starting to arrest people.’”He said his intention was to cooperate with Austrian authorities to convince them that he had done nothing wrong. “I’m not guilty, and I’ll prove it,” he said.