Heribert Apfalter

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Person.png Heribert Apfalter  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(businessman, Iran-Contra/Premature death)
Born22 September 1925
Pregarten, Austria
Died26 August 1987 (Age 61)
Weistrach, Austria
Cause of death
heart attack
Member ofClub 45
Victim ofpremature death
Interests • Herbert Amry
• Noricum
Austrian businessman who attended the 1979 Bilderberg. Sold weapons to Iran and Iraq. His sudden death in 1987 was surrounded by rumors of foul play.

Heribert Apfalter was an Austrian businessman, who as CEO of a state steel company sold weapons to Iran and Iraq. His sudden death in 1987 was surrounded by rumors of foul play.[1]


In 1977, Apfalter rose to the position of General Director at Voest-Alpine AG and was considered the “strong man” in this nationalized industrial group until 1985. Under political pressure to save jobs, he pursued the finalization of production (i.e. the advance of the basic materials company in the steel industry into finished goods production), and was partially successful with it. Apfalter managed VÖEST largely independently of the parent company, the state holding company ÖIAG. Apfalter was voted Austrian “Manager of the Year 1984” and in 1984 was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg (interestingly, in East Germany).

However, he got into trouble in 1985 due to the heavy losses related to the VOEST steelworks in Louisiana, USA, and when he had to admit enormous speculative losses of the VOEST subsidiary Intertrading to the nationalized holding in November 1985, the resulting intertrading scandal not only led to his dismissal, but also that of the entire remaining VOEST board.

Arms business

The GHN-45 cannon howitzer (Gun Howitzer Noricum, called "Bull" after the designer) is a 155 mm caliber field howitzer, developed by the Canadian engineer Gerald Bull

One of VOEST's most successful diversification activities in the short term was its entry into the arms business. However, this was associated with high political risks. Heribert Apfalter was considered to be the bearer of secrets and a potentially explosive witness in questions of the Noricum scandal (regarding cannon deliveries in violation of neutrality by the VOEST subsidiary Noricum to the war opponents Iran and Iraq).

Only from 1988 would Apfalter be entitled to the Voest company pension. But he knows a lot. For example about the cannon deal of his subsidiary “Noricum” with Iran and Iraq. The deal was approved by the top political leaders in Vienna - all of them reliable party comrades. As long as they leave him alone, he said in the summer of 1987, "I'll give it a rest too, but if I'm worried, I'll tell it all". Then the whole government in Vienna would have to resign, he hinted.[1]

The Liezen branch had been building Voest Noricum cannons, a licensed product from the Canadian inventor Gerald Bull, since the 1980s. The GHN-45 weapon, which had a range of 45 kilometers, was in breach of the Austrian neutrality treaty. The Austrian armed forces didn't want them, and they were exported - via the bogus address of Jordan to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And later also - via Libya - to Iran.

1600 Austrian workers were producing these guns until 1986. Everyone was happy, not least the federal government in Vienna. But Herbert Amry, the Austrian ambassador to Greece, got wind of the arms deal and notified the Foreign Office, which deliberately ignored it and kept the story under wraps. Apry died of sudden heart failure in July 1985, a death widely considered suspicious.

Media got hold of the case, and because of this, the judiciary went into action and prepared an indictment against 16 responsible "Noricum" and Voest managers.

Sudden Death

On August 21, Apfalter had to testify for the first time before the examining magistrate in Linz. After that, anonymous threatening phone calls were made. “I was advised to disappear abroad,” he confided to the “Krone” reporter Richard Schmitt on August 24th.

On August 25, 1987 a neighbor observed that Apfalter left his property around 20:15. And at 22.15, another neighbor watches as he returns home.

On the morning of August 26th, his wife Hermine, who lives in Linz, becomes restless. Usually her husband always gets in touch with her. She asks the neighbor to look check. The neighbour reached the locked house via a ladder, and sees Apfalter lying motionless in his bed, in a relaxed poistion. He is dead.

The autopsy reveals an occlusion of the left heart artery, with no evidence of drugs. The body is released for burial. Of course, something bothers the Linz coroner who carried out the autopsy: During a heart attack, the dying person's body cramps. That was not the case with Apfalter. According to all eyewitnesses, he was completely relaxed.

And what happened in the two hours of August 25th when Apfalter left his house? He drove his off-road vehicle - as was later reconstructed - to the Strengberg motorway service station, in the direction of Salzburg. At 8.30 p.m. he met a stranger there, small, dark hair, beard.[1]

It is possible that the stranger reported to him about the impending disaster: that the day before Apfeler's arrest had been decided in Linz, that the Viennese comrades would drop him like a hot potato and that he would have to answer for the illegal export of cannons out of reasons of state: endangerment of neutrality, violation of the Arms Export Act ...

“I believe that Apfalter then took too high a dose of his heart medication, so that he committed suicide”, said Franz Summer, for many years head of the press department of the Voest group. Former film star and Green MP Herbert Fux, on the other hand, pursued the murder theory for years afterwards. He discovered something strange in 1989: in the Vienna forensic medicine unit there were still frozen parts of the liver and kidney of Apfalters that had been removed during the first autopsy. So there were suspicions of an unnatural death.[1]

Thereupon another examination was carried out for digitalis, the heart drug that is particularly popular with secret agents. But only minor traces were found. Too little for a murder, the doctors judged.[1]

The files with the label “Apfalter” were finally closed, much to the relief of many actors. Only Herbert Fux stubbornly pursued his trail. In 2006 he confided to Die Presse that he had discovered a secret, but he would not reveal it until shortly before his death. “The republic will tremble,” murmured the former film villain, who had become more and more estranged from “his” green party. That didn't happen since Herbert Fux died on March 13, 2007 in Salzburg.[1]


Event Participated in

Bilderberg/197927 April 197929 April 1979Austria
Clubhotel Schloss Weikersdorf
27th Bilderberg, 95 guests, Austria