Italy court ac­quits two top ex­ec­u­tives

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MI­LAN: An Ital­ian court on Mon­day ac­quit­ted Giuseppe Orsi, the for­mer pres­i­dent of de­fence and aerospace gi­ant Fin­mec­ca­nica, of charges re­lated to al­leged bribes paid in ex­change for a Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chop­per deal to sell 12 Agustawest­land he­li­copters to In­dia.

Orsi was ar­rested in 2014 and re­signed as chief ex­ec­u­tive of the aerospace group which was later re­named as Leonardo.

Orsi was at the helm of Agustawest­land when the deal was struck, and he is sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the pay­ment of bribes.

He had been sen­tenced to four-a-half-years years in jail for false ac­count­ing and cor­rup­tion.

Bruno Spag­no­lini, a for­mer CEO of the com­pany's he­li­copters sub­sidiary Agustawest­land, who had also been handed a four- year jail term on the same charges, was also cleared, Ital­ian news agency ANSA re­ported.

The case against Orsi and Spag­no­lini re­sulted from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion launched in 2012 into the sale of 12 lux­ury he­li­copters to In­dia.

In­dia had scrapped the con­tract with Fin­mec­ca­nica's Bri­tish sub­sidiary Agustawest­land in Jan­uary 2014 for sup­ply­ing 12 AW-101 VVIP chop­pers to the In­dian Air Force over the al­leged breach of con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions and charges of kick­backs paid by the firm for se­cur­ing the deal.

In­dia's de­fence min­istry had or­dered a CBI probe into the al­le­ga­tions of kick­backs to the tune of Rs 362 crore af­ter the ar­rest of Orsi and Spag­no­lini by Ital­ian in­ves­ti­ga­tors in con­nec­tion with the case.

In Fe­bru­ary 2010, In­dia had inked the deal to ac­quire 12 three-en­gine AW-101 he­li­copters from Agustawest­land for VVIP use.

NEW DELHI: The ac­quit­tal of for­mer top ex­ec­u­tives of Fin­mec­ca­nica and Agustawest­land-Giuseppe Orsi and Bruno Spag­no­lini -- will have no bear­ing on the CBI case as it is based on an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion with strong ev­i­dence, se­nior cen­tral agency of­fi­cials said on Mon­day.

The com­ments came af­ter Orsi, ex-pres­i­dent of de­fence and aerospace gi­ant Fin­mec­ca­nica, and Spag­no­lini, a for- mer CEO of the com­pany’s he­li­copters sub­sidiary Agustawest­land, were ac­quit­ted by an Ital­ian court on Mon­day.

The of­fi­cials said the same set of ev­i­dence had re­sulted in their con­vic­tion ear­lier.

The sources said the case in Ital­ian courts is based on the ev­i­dence gath­ered by the Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties whereas the CBI car­ried out a com­pletely in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the matter. They said there is an op­tion of ap­peal with Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties even af­ter the order of the Mi­lan court of ap­peals.

“We have had a com­pletely dif­fer­ent probe. We have very strong case,” CBI Spokesper­son Ab­hishek Dayal said here.

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

The case against Orsi and Spag­no­lini re­sulted from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion launched in 2012 by Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties look­ing into al­leged cor­rup­tion into the sale of 12 he­li­copters to In­dia for the use of VVIPS worth Rs 3600 crore. The two were ac­cused of in­ter­na­tional cor­rup­tion and false in­voic­ing in re­la­tion to bribes ex­changed for the 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. Both ap­pealed against the con­vic­tion, while the prose­cu­tion ap­pealed against the ac­quit­tal on the cor­rup­tion charge.

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