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Wed, Sep 13, 2006

Canadian Eurocopter Fraud Dispute Thrown Out

You Need A Scorecard To Sort This One Out

A complex legal prosecution by the Canadian government against Eurocopter Canada for illegally paying commissions in order to sell helicopters to the Canadian Coast Guard, has been thrown out.

The byzantine legal dispute known as the "Airbus Affair" (though the Airbus company was itself actually not involved), included a German-Canadian lobbyist, the former prime minister of Canada, a former premier (governor) of Newfoundland, and a journalist.

Eurocopter was the new name for the original German company formerly known as Messerschmitt-Bolkow Blohm. It is a subsidiary of EADS who also happens to own Airbus.

In 1986, Eurocopter Canada began delivering BO-105s to the Canadian Coast Guard for 25 million Canadian dollars. There were no issues with the hardware, but the contract agreement specified that no commissions were to be paid to anyone in the deal.

In 2002, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) burst into Eurocopter offices in Ontario looking for evidence that $1.1 million had had been improperly  paid by Eurocopter to a firm owned by then-premier Frank Moores. The money was alledgedly channelled through a holding company run by Karlheinz Schreiber. Schreiber was famous for having brokered a deal with Airbus to win an order to sell 34 planes to Air Canada in 1988.

Journalist Stevie Cameron wrote two books about the Eurocopter purchase which prompted the Mounties to begin their investigation. It later turned out that she acted as an informant and allegedly met with them more than once a month to share her findings. For two years, they relied on her on-going research.

The Mounties stopped when former prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, filed a lawsuit alleging defamation because of a letter of request sent to Swiss authorities naming him as a potential suspect.

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, documents obtained three years ago through the Access to Information Act revealed that the Airbus investigation alone cost more than $6.4-million. Included in that figure is $2-million the federal government paid to ex-Prime Minister Mulroney to settle the suit after the government conceded it had libelled him in 1995.

On Monday, perhaps figuring that maybe they could spend their money more wisely on, say, helicopters, the Canadian government finally gave up. At long last, after eleven years, the Airbus Affair is over.

FMI: Canadian Court


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