British windfall for BAE bribery suspect

An Austrian lobbyist who complained about not being given a comb and “decent” underwear in British custody has received nearly half a million Euros for his six-day detention in London.Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly’s lawyer Harald Schuster announced today (Thurs) British authorities decided to compensate his client with 430,000 Euros. The entrepreneur and lobbyist was arrested and kept in custody in London, Great Britain, in March 2010.Mensdorff-Pouilly, who owns real estate in Austria and Scotland, was accused of bribery and facilitation of corruption, but Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) decided to drop all charges after British defence firm BAE Systems struck a deal with authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States.BAE Systems agreed to pay 320 million Euros after admitting to criminal charges. The company was accused of being entangled in corruptive business activities in both countries for years before the out-of-court settlement – which infuriated political leaders in Austria – was made. Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) Defence Minister Norbert Darabos labelled the agreement as a “sale of indulgence.”The SFO was trying to find out whether Mensdorff-Pouilly had made illegal payments of up to 12 million Euros in return for contracts to deliver Gripen fighter jets co-produced by BAE Systems and Swedish company Saab to the federal governments of several countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) between 2002 and 2008.The Austrian, who is married to former People’s Party (ÖVP) Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. The lobbyist said he was convinced his innocence would be confirmed by investigations of Austrian authorities after prosecutors in Vienna stressed last year they were willing to continue investigating against him.Schuster said he would continue fighting to prove that Austrian prosecutors’ attempt to keep examining the case against his client was a breach of European Union (EU) law. The advocate claimed that EU citizens must not be prosecuted for the same offence in two different member states.The lawyer admitted today that his client was “surprised” by the high amount he received as compensation for his time behind bars in London. Mensdorff-Pouilly is quoted as saying by business magazine Format: “I would have stayed four weeks had I known that.”The businessman sparked controversy by launching an extraordinary attack on Britain’s juridical authorities last year. Shortly after his release, he told magazine News: “Human rights are not respected in custody in England in contrast to Austria where things happen in a correct way in this regard – if it’s possible to describe such actions with an attribute like that.”Mensdorff-Pouilly, who spent five weeks in custody in Vienna in 2009, also hit at London-based decision-makers for taking away all his medications before giving them back to him on his final day in detention.The 57-year-old lobbyist – who resides in a spacious hunting lodge in the remote Burgenland town of Luising – went on: “I wasn’t given decent underwear despite having asked for it several times. And they didn’t give me a comb.”He added: “I successfully asked for a vaccination against Hepatitis B after I discovered stubble in the used disposable razor I was given.”