Finmeccanica ready to cooperate with India on helicopter deal

Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:36am EST
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By Lisa Jucca and Danilo Masoni

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian defense company Finmeccanica SIFI.MI, at the center of a probe into alleged bribery to win an Indian helicopter tender, said on Tuesday it was ready to cooperate with Indian authorities to clarify the matter.

India's defense ministry has threatened Finmeccanica unit AgustaWestland with cancellation of a 560 million euro ($750 million) deal for 12 helicopters unless it can give assurances that no bribes were paid in the deal.

The case, which escalated last week with the arrest of then Finmeccanica head Giuseppe Orsi, is putting pressure on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose government has been buffeted by a string of graft cases. It has also become a political issue in Italy, which goes to the polls on February 24-25.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Italian defence group said it had never broken Indian law in the 40 years it had been operating in this strategic market, adding it was confident AgustaWestland would be able to show it had acted lawfully.

"Finmeccanica is confident AgustaWestland will demonstrate it has fully complied with Indian law," the group, which has named Chief Financial Officer Alessandro Pansa as its new CEO, said.

The state-controlled group said it was "ready to cooperate with Indian authorities in order to clarify the matter."

It said cooperation would follow "international procedures applicable to an investigation of this kind."

India has sent a high-ranking delegation of officials to Italy to gather evidence on the bribery case. The officials were in Milan on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.   Continued...

A visitor walks past a stand for Italian defence group Finmeccanica during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Ben Job