Austrian arms lobbyist cleared in BAE trial

17th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

A colourful Austrian count was cleared Thursday of laundering millions of euros (dollars) on behalf of British defence giant BAE Systems to win arms contracts in central and eastern Europe.

Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly was however given a two-month suspended jail sentence for the lesser crime of tampering with evidence, a court in Vienna ruled at the end of a high-profile trial.

"The whole affair stinks, but it doesn't stink enough," presiding judge Stefan Apostol said.

Mensdorff-Pouilly allegedly received 12.6 million euros ($16.4 million) from BAE between 2000 and 2008, which prosecutors charged was then used to grease the palms of "decision-makers" in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria to buy military jets.

The prosecution's case was weakened by the fact that BAE reached a controversial 450-million-dollar settlement with US and British authorities to settle this and other cases in 2010.

Prosecutors also lacked key witnesses such as Timothy Landon, an even more colourful character implicated in a 1970 coup in Oman who helped get the count hired by BAE in the 1990s. Landon, who was married to Mensdorff's cousin, died in 2007.

© 2013 AFP

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