Airbus ordered to pay 104 million euros to settle Taiwan missile dispute

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus said on Saturday it had been ordered to pay 104 million euros in fines over a missile sale to Taiwan in 1992, the latest French arms company to reach a settlement over disputes arising from one of France's biggest ever arms sales.

The scandal around French arms sales to the island in the early 1990s was one of a series of cases that underpinned accusations of widespread corruption during the final years of late French president Francois Mitterrand.

Airbus said in a statement that its subsidiary behind the missile contract, Matra Defense, was "reviewing the award before evaluating the next steps to take".

The arbitration fine comes three months after Dassault Aviation , radar supplier Thales and engine maker Safran said they had been fined a combined 227 million euros ($276.80 million) in Taiwan to settle the 25-year-old dispute over the wrongful use of commissions in the sale of 60 Mirage fighters to the island.

"This was a commercial dispute and not a corruption allegation," said an Airbus spokesman.

In a separate case, Airbus said it was in talks with Munich prosecutors that could lead to the termination of their investigation into alleged corruption in the sale of Eurofighter combat jets to Austria in 2003.

That investigation is one of several corruption cases still facing Europe's largest aerospace company.

Airbus did not mention the status of a parallel Austrian investigation into the same arms deal.

The company and individuals including CEO Tom Enders are being investigated in Vienna over industrial deals that were built into the Eurofighter sale and have denied any wrongdoing.

Separately, Airbus faces UK and French investigations into the use of middlemen in commercial airliner sales.

($1 = 0.8201 euros)

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; writing by Richard Lough; editing by Clelia Oziel)

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