Charging the former CEOs of Finmecannica and its subsidiary AgustaWestland with bribing Indian officials, including former Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, for bagging the VVIP chopper deal in 2010, Italian prosecutors have demanded imprisonment for the firm’s top officials in their final argument in a court that is hearing the international bribery case near Milan.
In their closing remarks in the Busto Arsizio court, the prosecutors have sought a six-year jail term for Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and a five-year term for AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini for falsifying records and hiring middlemen to funnel bribes to India.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the two officials as well as a ring of middlemen have been under investigation since the end of 2011. A CBI investigation was also launched in India last year after a series of reports were published in the newspaper. The probe is still on.
While the two officials have consistently denied any involvement in payment of bribes to Indian officials for the 556 million-euro contract that was inked in 2010 to supply 12 VVIP choppers, alleged key middleman Guido Haschke has confessed to funnelling bribes, and bargained for a 22 month prison term.
Sources said the two company executives have been charged with facilitating 14 million euros bribe to the Tyagi family, including the former IAF chief, to bag the contract by changing technical specifications and manipulating the trials. The officials have been charged with bribery and embezzlement.
The prosecution has also asked that the two officials be asked to pay 7.5 million euros as penalty for taking part in an international racket and misusing their position to give away fake software engineering contracts to Haschke through a complex network of companies based in Switzerland, Tunisia and Chandigarh.
In India, while the CBI probe is on, the defence ministry has cancelled the 2010 deal and has recovered most of the money that it had paid to the Italian firm after a legal battle by initiating the stringent integrity pact last year. India went in for a long drawn appeal process at the end of which the Italian court ruled earlier in May that 228 million euros of the claims made by India need to be unfrozen.
Out of this, 228 million euros have been recovered by India while three choppers are also in its possession, albeit not flying for a lack of spares. An arbitration process is also on between the defence ministry and AgustaWestland.