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Galileo satellite boss suspended over WikiLeaks cable

The Local · 18 Jan 2011, 11:05

Published: 18 Jan 2011 11:05 GMT+01:00

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Satellite firm OHB Technology suspended Berry Smutny indefinitely and "with immediate effect," spokesman Steffen Leuthold said.

According to an October 2009 cable from the US embassy in Berlin obtained by WikiLeaks and released by Norwegian daily Aftenposten, Smutny said: "I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests."

Smutny, whose firm won a €566 million ($759 million) contract to develop 14 satellites for the system, also said the project was "a waste of EU taxpayers' money championed by French interests," according to the cable.

The supervisory board of OHB "disapproves of these conversations and the quotes attributed to Mr. Smutny," said Leuthold.

Smutny has denied making the comments.

"We believe him, but the damage to our reputation was too big," Leuthold told news agency AFP.

Galileo aims to challenge the dominance of the US-built Global Positioning System (GPS) set up by the Pentagon in the 1980s, which is widely used in a huge variety of navigation devices.

Story continues below…

Plagued by delays and cost over-runs, Galileo has an official price tag of €3.4 billion but reports have said the final cost of the system could exceed €20 billion. It is scheduled to be operational in 2014.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:07 January 18, 2011 by freechoice
US GPS is exceedingly accurate when state sponsored death penalty on innocent non US citizens in major hotspots in the world.
12:18 January 18, 2011 by William Thirteen
honesty isn't always the best policy when it comes to large government contracts.
13:00 January 18, 2011 by cheeba
In many ways Wikileaksis really just a scandal rag in the British tabloid model. Here a man lost his job and probably his livelihood for speaking candidly with people he reasonably trusted to be discreet.
13:22 January 18, 2011 by Anuj
Chances are that the american spies (sorry diplomats) did not make up the comments attributed to Mr. Smutny. If the project his company was working on was supposed to end American dominance, I would think that he was way out of line in discussing the project with the americans. Deserved to be sacked, methinks.
14:29 January 18, 2011 by cheeba
I agree Anuj, and I also suppose that this exposes the fig leaf, the claim that was made that Gallileo was not designed "against America" but was something needed for it's own sake. For 20 billion euros and counting you would sure want to believe that.
19:11 January 18, 2011 by Gretl
freechoice: Again in English, please?

Oh, nevermind. You make liberals like me look conservative.

I don't know why OHB Technology is freaking out. They won the contract, who cares whether they think it is productive or not, they will build it as ordered....unless they're afraid their contract will be terminated for cost overruns.
23:21 January 20, 2011 by Trippy
It seems that a conglomerate of nations hell bent on building a space based navigation system, would need such a thing. Except the french cant build a proper aircraft carrier, the Brits cant afford to and the rest depend on the US to protect them so they can sleep good at night. What exactly do you need the program for? All of your nations combined could not defend a small town much less invade a bar across the pond.
23:32 January 24, 2011 by Beachrider
- Smutney probably said it.

- The first commentator is apparently angry with the USA but you cannot really be sure

- The EU can do this if it pleases. Americans will see this as a strange investment in backward-looking technology.

- I don't know why the oft-misused Liberal/Conservative labels are being invoked here.
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