The Chief Executive of Airbus, Thomas Enders, is being investigated by prosecutors in Austria for suspected fraud.
The focus is on Eurofighter warplanes bought by Austria more than a decade ago.
The prosecutors office confirmed that Enders is one of several people in a criminal investigation opened in February.
On Thursday Enders hit back at the Austrian investigation, describing it as a “politically-motivated abuse of the legal system”.
In a bluntly worded statement, Enders pledged to cooperate, but called the accusations “unfounded and unsubstantiated” and linked them to possible Austrian elections.
Austria’s defence ministry has alleged Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium misled decision-makers about the purchase price, deliverability and equipment of the plane to cover money that was illegally paid to politicians, civil servants and others via brokers for so-called offset deals accompanying the transaction.
Enders was head of the defence division European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Company (as Airbus was then known) when the contract was signed. He took responsibility for combat aircraft a few months later.
For years Austrian and German prosecutors have separately been investigating whether officials received bribes in return for choosing the Eurofighter over rival jets made by Saab and Lockheed Martin.