Finmeccanica’s ex-boss jailed for graft in Indian chopper deal

Finmeccanica's ex-boss jailed for graft in Indian chopper dealMILAN/NEW DELHI: Italian defense and aerospace major Finmeccanica’s former chief Giuseppe Orsi has been sentenced by the Milan appeals court to 4.5 years in jail for false accounting and corruption over the sale of 12 VVIP choppers to India for Rs 3,600 crore.

In the ruling, which overturned a previous court order of 2014, Bruno Spagnolini, the former CEO of Finmeccanica’s helicopter subsidiary AgustaWestland, was also handed a four- year prison term by the court yesterday.

The court found both guilty of corruption in relation to the sale of 12 helicopters to the Indian government and sentenced Orsi to a jail term of four and a half years, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Prosecutors had requested jail terms of six years and five years for Orsi and Spagnolini, respectively, it said.

The ruling has come as a severe blow to the Italian company which had just managed to leave the corruption saga behind that marred its image across the world.

Though Finmeccanica has refused to say anything on the ruling saying it pertained to former executives, top company officials told PTI that the firm “has changed completely”.

“The company has undergone deep changes and it has changed completely from the time when the allegations came up first. Finmeccanica is a different company now,” an official said.

Both Orsi and Spagnolini were accused of international corruption and false invoicing in relation to bribes exchanged for a 560-million-euro (approx. Rs 4,250 crore) contract with India.

Both were cleared on charges of committing international corruption at the first-instance trial in 2014 but convicted of false invoicing and sentenced to two years in prison.

In Italy, criminal sentences are not usually considered definitive until the appeals process has been exhausted, the report said.

In October, 2014, a lower court had convicted Orsi and Spagnolini of falsifying invoices but acquitted them of corruption. Both appealed against the conviction, while the prosecution appealed against the acquittal on the corruption charge.

On January 1, 2014, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica’s British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW101 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force (IAF) over alleged breach of contractual obligations and charges of paying kickbacks to the tune of Rs 360 crore by it for securing the deal.

The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are still probing the case in which former IAF chief S P Tyagi and his cousins are alleged to be the beneficiaries.

The ED has booked Tyagi, his family members, European nationals – Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, four firms – Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Chandigarh- based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix, two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, few other firms and unknown persons in CBI’s criminal complaint.

In view of the corruption charges, India has also barred Finmeccanica and its group companies from participating in any new program of the defense ministry.–PTI

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