VIENNA, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Austria may broaden a lawsuit against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium to U.S. and British courts, alleging wilful deception and fraud linked to its 2003 order for jet fighters worth nearly 2 billion euro ($2.1 billion).
On Feb. 16, Austria's defence ministry announced it would sue Airbus and Eurofighter in Austria, accusing them of misleading Vienna about the purchase price, deliverability and equipment of the jets. The incurred damage could amount to 1.1 billion euros.
On Friday, a spokesman for the defence ministry confirmed a report by Austrian newspaper Kurier. He said:
"From the viewpoint of compliance rules in British and U.S. American law, there are indications that the jurisdiction of English and U.S. American authorities could be justified due to the many offset deals with U.S. American parties."
Airbus had earlier said it denied the accusations vigorously. The company could not immediately be reached for comment on a possible broadening of the lawsuit.
The defence ministry has said it had found Airbus and the consortium illegally charged nearly 10 percent of the purchase price of 1.96 billion euros for so-called offset deals.
Such deals, which involve work being given to local companies, were part of the agreement, but their cost should have been reported separately, it has said in a report.
"It is not ruled out that after completing investigations, making a request to the English or U.S. American authorities might be considered," the ministry spokesman said on Friday.
He added the ministry was working with U.S. law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Austrian prosecutors started investigations into the case on Thursday. ($1 = 0.9451 euros) (Reporting By Shadia Nasralla,editingby Larry King)