VIENNA: Austria filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium, alleging wilful deception and fraud linked to a 2 billion euro ($2.1 billion) order for Eurofighter jets in 2003, the defence ministry said. The ministry said that following an investigation it believed Airbus and Eurofighter had misled Austria about the purchase price, deliverability and equipment of the jets. Damages could amount to 1.1 billion euros, Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said at a news conference in Vienna. Airbus said it was unable to comment as it had only just learnt about the action through the media. "We don't know any details," a spokesman said. "We can however confirm that in recent years we have supported the activities by the legal authorities, for instance through (our) own investigations," he added. Austrian and German prosecutors have been investigating the case for years and Munich prosecutors have said they expect to complete separate preliminary proceedings by mid-year. "As defence minister, I consider it my duty to report facts relevant for criminal prosecution and to claim compensation for the Austrian taxpayers' damage. This is what we did today," Doskozil said. Austria initially ordered 18 Eurofighter jets but reduced the order to 15 in 2007. It then ordered a review of the purchase four years ago following bribery allegations. The deal was controversial from the outset and allegations surfaced almost immediately after its announcement in 2003 that money was pocketed by politicians, civil servants and others via brokers for side deals accompanying the purchase. A European defence executive, asking not to be identified, said Eurofighter had won the deal with the lowest price. The Eurofighter is built by a consortium comprising Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Leonardo as well as Airbus, which represents the other two nations in the European project: Germany and Spain. Airbus and the consortium illegally charged nearly 10 percent of the purchase price of 1.96 billion euros for so-called offset deals, according to the defence ministry's findings. While offset deals - which involve work being given to local companies - were part of the agreement, their cost should have been reported separately, it said in a report. Airbus and Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH, which coordinates the production of the aircraft and is headquartered in Munich, also deceived Austria about its ability and will to deliver the agreed equipment, the report said. The Eurofighter consortium was not immediately available to comment. The ministry said its damages estimate of up to 1.1 billion euros related to extra costs paid for the Eurofighter compared with a jet from another bidder and higher operating expenses. Airbus, Europe's largest aerospace group, has said it is co-operating with a separate German probe into the fighter sale to Austria, as well as three probes into suspected irregularities in defence or security markets, including a UK investigation into a $3.3 billion communications deal with Saudi Arabia. ($1 = 0.9400 euros)