German Helicopter Spy Trial to Open

An agent for the Foreign Intelligence Service offered a German engineer around $52,000 to provide him with handbooks for Western helicopters, according to an indictment released by a German court on Wednesday.

In an ironic bit of timing, the Munich Higher Court published the indictment from Germany's Federal Prosecutor General's Office in the spy case surrounding Vladimir Vozhzhov just one day before Dmitry Medvedev was to visit Berlin on his first trip to the West as president.

The case of Vozhzhov, a former official in the Federal Space Agency, caused a diplomatic flap between Moscow and Vienna after he was arrested in Austria one year ago. He was released and returned to Moscow after a United Nations enquiry determined that he had diplomatic immunity.

The Munich court has scheduled the opening of the trial against the engineer, Werner Greipl, for next Monday. Prosecutors originally identified him only as Werner G. and his last name was blacked over in the copy of the indictment released to media, but his identity was confirmed in the course of interviews with a range of sources earlier this year.

Greipl, a former employee of Eurocopter, the helicopter unit of European aerospace giant EADS, has admitted to wrongdoing, prosecutors have said in earlier statements.

The indictment charges that Vozhzhov paid Greipl 13,000 euros ($20,000) for the information and had promised an additional 21,000 euros, the indictment said.

According to prosecutors, Vozhzhov made an initial payment of 8,000 euros for documentation on Boeing 234 and Eurocopter AS 350 helicopters provided by Greipl in the summer of 2005.

He then promised another 6,000 euros for documentations on the Augusta 109 and the Eurocopter BK 117 or EC 155 Helicopters, which the engineer handed over in December 2005.

Greipl received an ATM card from Vozhzhov for an account holding 5,000 euros, but never received the remaining. He also never received the 20,000 euros that he had been promised for a number of manuals and pilot handbooks for seven small and midsized helicopters he provided in August 2006.

Analysts said Wednesday that the case was puzzling because many of the documents provided by Greipl were available on the Internet.

The Boeing 234, for instance, is a civilian version of the Chinook military transport helicopter. A specialist web site (www.chinook-helicopter.com) offers extensive documentation, including handbooks.

"Many of other handbooks can be found on the net, although it might be harder with the European models," said Otfried Nassauer, a defense analyst at the Berlin Information Center for Trans-Atlantic Security.