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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
EADS boss quits to fight scandal
By Theo Leggett
BBC Europe business reporter in Brussels

EADS vice president Jean-Louis Gergorin
Mr Gregorin has vowed to fight the media allegations
A top executive at European aerospace and defence group EADS has resigned to defend himself against claims he was embroiled in the Clearstream scandal.

Vice-president Jean-Louis Gergorin said he had stepped down from his post as the company's strategic coordinator.

It follows French media claims that he gave false information to a judge investigating the corruption scandal.

The judge had been probing claims that bribes were paid to French officials for the sale of frigates to Taiwan.

EADS said Mr Gergorin has not been placed under formal investigation, and his contract has not been withdrawn.

Mr Gergorin's decision to step down comes just a month after investigators raided the offices of the EADS aircraft-making unit Airbus and searched the offices of its chief executive Gustav Humbert.

Under threat

The corruption scandal, which began with the 1991 sale of six ships, poses a very real threat the French government.

Two years ago the judge handling the inquiry received anonymous letters and a CD hinting that prominent politicians and businessmen had received kickbacks for helping the sale.

The documents also suggested that these figures had hidden the money in secret bank accounts at Clearstream, a Luxembourg-based clearing house.

However, the allegations turned out to be false - triggering yet more investigations.

The allegations gained a political dimension when it emerged that one of those named in the letters was Nicolas Sarkozy, the current interior minister.

His rival, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin - then foreign minister - had earlier ordered intelligence officials to investigate the lists.

Mr Sarkozy insists the affair was part of a deliberate smear campaign against him - designed to derail a possible bid to become president in 2007.

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