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German probe opens into suspected internal spying at Airbus

German prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected internal spying by employees of European aviation giant Airbus over two arms projects, sources have said.

German probe opens into suspected internal spying at Airbus
An Airbus sign at the Ottobrunn site near Munich. Photo: DPA

The suspicions arose “a few weeks ago”, and the company has alerted the authorities in the southern German city of Munich, an Airbus source said.

“Some of our employees had documents that they shouldn't have had,” the source said.

The employees work in the Munich-based Programme Line Communications, Intelligence and Security (CIS), which handles cybersecurity and related activities.

Airbus said it was conducting an “ongoing internal review with the support of an external law firm” in the case.

“The company is fully cooperating with relevant authorities to resolve the matter,” it said in a statement.

It said it had “self-declared to German authorities potential wrongdoings by several employees with respect to certain customer documents relating to two future German procurement projects” handled by CIS.

Munich prosecutors could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

The German daily Bild reported that around 20 Airbus employees were immediately suspended and that investigators had seized files and computers.

Bild said the employees had obtained secret files of the German army involving the acquisition of a communication system, among other subjects.

The army disciplined one employee, Bild reported.

READ ALSO: Airbus chief warns of significant penalties from bribery probes

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AIRBUS

Airbus job cuts to hit Germany hardest

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier on Wednesday urged plane builder Airbus to spread the pain fairly as it cuts 15,000 jobs to deal with lower orders following the coronavirus pandemic.

Airbus job cuts to hit Germany hardest
An Airbus plane departing Leipzig's airport on Wednesday for Rhodes, Greece for the first time since the start of the corona crisis. Photo: DPA

Just like airline giant Lufthansa, which Berlin has stepped in to save with €9 billion of taxpayer cash, “we have an interest that (Airbus) survives the crisis undamaged,” Altmaier said.

Nevertheless, “we assume that the restructuring will proceed in a way that does not favour any country nor disadvantage any country,” he added.

 

The company had said Tuesday its cuts would fall most heavily on Europe's top economy, with 5,100 positions to go compared with 5,000 in France, 1,700 in Britain and 900 in Spain.

Some 45,600 of Airbus' roughly 135,000 employees worldwide work in Germany, compared with 49,000 in France — meaning the German share of the planned layoffs is higher than the French.

Altmaier also recalled that Berlin was investing around €1 billion in developing quieter low-emissions aircraft, with Airbus among companies eligible for the funds.

Paris reacted more forcefully Tuesday, with the economy ministry blasting the planned Airbus cuts as “excessive” and urging limits on forced departures.

Company bosses have said they will discuss with unions how to achieve the job reductions, with measures including voluntary departures, early retirement, and long-term partial unemployment schemes all on the table.

On Wednesday, Germany partially restarted its travel and tourism industry again. The worldwide travel warning is being lifted for all EU member states as of Wednesday, although a travel warning remains in place for 130 countries until at least August 31st.

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