Finmeccanica, Indian officials discuss bribery claims

Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:31pm EST
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By Paolo Biondi and Danilo Masoni

ROME/MILAN (Reuters) - Italian defense group Finmeccanica SIFI.MI and Indian officials discussed corruption allegations connected with the purchase of 12 helicopters in a meeting on Thursday that both sides said was positive.

The Indian delegation is in Italy to collect evidence relating to allegations that Finmeccanica paid bribes to win the 560 million euro ($750 million) contract awarded in 2010 to its Anglo-Italian helicopter unit AgustaWestland.

An Italian investigation, which escalated last week with the arrest of the then head of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, is putting pressure on the Indian government, already buffeted by a string of graft cases.

It has also become a political issue in Italy ahead of parliamentary elections on February 24-25.

Italian prosecutors accuse Orsi of paying bribes to intermediaries to secure the helicopter deal back in 2010, when he was head of AgustaWestland. According to the arrest warrant, the Indian tender was twisted to favour the Italian firm.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday the government had nothing to hide.

Orsi has denied any wrongdoing.

Finmeccanica's new chief executive officer, Alessandro Pansa, and an Indian official with direct knowledge of the matter welcomed Thursday's talks.   Continued...

The headquarters of Italian defense and aerospace company Finmeccanica is seen in Rome May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi