Chopper scam: Two ex-bosses of Finmeccanica cleared of graft

Former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini were on Thursday acquitted of corruption charges in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with India but were sentenced to two-year jail term on lesser charges of falsification of invoices.

Milan: Former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and ex-AgustaWestland head Bruno Spagnolini were on Thursday acquitted of corruption charges in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with India but were sentenced to two-year jail term on lesser charges of falsification of invoices.

"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.

However, both Orsi and Spagnolini were convicted of false invoicing and sentenced to two years in prison, the agency said.

On January 1, India scrapped the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW101 VVIP choppers to the Air Force for 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 are still probing the case in India where 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 defence ministry tenders.

During the arguments, ED told the court that the probe

into the case has wider international ramifications and money trail has to be established.

"We have to probe as to where the proceeds of crime has gone. We cannot have eye-witnesses in such cases so we will have to dig out evidence," Matta said adding various documents have been received by ED from the Ministry of Defence.

The counsel, appearing for Khaitan, argued his client had no role whatsoever in the entire case and he has been made a victim by the probe agency.

ED had earlier alleged in the court that Rs 360 crore was paid as kickbacks in the entire deal.

ED had earlier submitted that Khaitan was on the board of Chandigarh-based company Aeromatrix which was allegedly a front firm for the financial dealings in the chopper deal.

Khaitan's counsel, however, had argued his client was nowhere connected with the day-to-day affairs of the firm and he had resigned from the post in October 2010.

Khaitan was arrested by ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). ED had lodged a case in July this year against Khaitan, former IAF chief S P Tyagi and 19 others in the VVIP chopper deal case to probe alleged kickbacks.

ED had earlier said Khaitan was one of the directors in Aeromatrix and he had resigned from the post after the Italian police started its probe into the chopper deal.

It had said a reference to Khaitan was also reportedly made in Italian prosecutor's report filed in a court there.

He was earlier questioned by CBI in this case. ED had registered a case in this deal under PMLA, taking cognisance of a more-than-a-year-old CBI FIR.

ED has booked former IAF Chief S P Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke, four firms--Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix, two companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia, a few other firms and unnamed persons in its criminal complaint.

The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland came under the scanner after the Italian authorities alleged that bribe was paid by the company to clinch the deal.

The Italian prosecutor, who carried out the preliminary inquiry, alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of UK-based AgustaWestland, had used the services of middlemen to bribe Indian officials.

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