An Italian court on Thursday acquitted former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and former AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini of “charges of international corruption” in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with India. The court, however, convicted and sentenced them to two years in prison on the lesser charge of “false invoicing” in the case.
“Former Finmeccannica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini were acquitted of charges of international corruption in relation to alleged bribes paid to land a contract to sell 12 helicopters to the Indian government,” Italian news agency Ansa reported. It said Orsi “was convicted of false invoicing… and sentenced to two years in prison, along with Spagnolini.”
On July 29, the prosecution had “shelved proceedings against Finmeccanica for alleged corruption in the sale to the Indian government of 12 AW-101 helicopters made by its AgustaWestland subsidiary”.
Ansa had then reported that “the prosecution found the company had nothing to do with the alleged corruption”. Quoting a statement by Finmeccanica, it said, “AgustaWestland has agreed to pay a fine, while reiterating it knew nothing about the alleged bribery.”
Earlier this year, India scrapped the contract with AgustaWestland for alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks, encashing bank guarantees adding up to Rs 240 crore. India has also barred Finmeccanica and its group companies from participating in Defence Ministry tenders.
Sources said the decision of the Italian court is not likely to affect the ongoing cases against the company in India, which are being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. Former IAF Chief S P Tyagi is among the alleged beneficiaries.
While businessman Gautam Khaitan has been arrested in the case, among the others who have been booked are: Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, four firms — Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix, and two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia.
On Thursday, ED opposed Khaitan’s bail plea in the Delhi High Court. “We have produced the Italian court order dated August 5, 2014, where the application for cancellation of arrest warrant of Gautam Khaitan has been declined and in that order, it has been discussed by Italian court how kickbacks were received in India,” said advocate Vikas Garg, special public prosecutor, ED.
The court reserved its order till October 13, and extended Khaitan’s judicial custody to October 21.
— With PTI, Milan