Ital­ian Court Finds Graft in Agusta Deal

Milan ap­peals court says bribes were paid to In­dian of­fi­cials

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Manu.Pubby@ times­group.com

New Delhi: The .₹ 3,565-crore Agus­taWest­land con­tract for buy­ing VVIP heli­copters from Ital­ian com­pany Fin­mec­ca­nica, signed in 2010, in­volved pay­offs to In­dian of­fi­cials, an Ital­ian ap­peals court has ruled. The rul­ing over­turns a lower court judge­ment that said cor­rup­tion could not be proved. The Milan Court of Ap­peals — equiv­a­lent to an In­dian high court — also found two of Fin­mec­ca­nica’s then top bosses guilty of in­ter­na­tional cor­rup­tion and money laun­der­ing.

Giuseppe Orsi, the pow­er­ful for­mer chief of Fin­mec­ca­nica, has been sen­tenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. Bruno Spag­no­lini — who headed chop­per di­vi­sion Agus­taWest­land — has been given a four-year jail term.

The court also or­dered the two ex­ec­u­tives to pay 7.5 mil­lion eu­ros ($8.5 mil­lion), a sum cor­re­spond­ing to the amount deemed to have been al­legedly paid in bribes, an agency re­port said. for­mer chief of Fin­mec­ca­nica

and Spag­no­lini guilty of in­ter­na­tional cor­rup­tion and money laun­der­ing

sen­tenced to 4-and-ahalf years in prison; Spag­no­lini given a four-year jail term head of Agus­taWest­land

to pay 7.5 mil­lion eu­ros ($8.5 mil­lion), a sum cor­re­spond­ing to the amount deemed to have been al­legedly paid in bribes

held guilty of pay­ing bribes to In­dian of­fi­cials for per­form­ing their duty — some­thing that they should have been do­ing any­way

United Brew­eries part­nered with East Ben­gal in 1998 and the money it pumped in al­lowed the club to give it­self a ma­jor facelift. Within the con­sti­tu­tion of the club, a com­pany was formed in 2000, called the United East Ben­gal Foot­ball Team Pvt Ltd, where half the stake be­longed to the maker of the King­fisher beer. The club and the com­pany nom­i­nated five di­rec­tors each to the board, Mallya be­came its chair­man, and the club was branded King­fisher East Ben­gal FC.

The ar­range­ment is still in­tact, said club rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and they ex­pect no fund crunch with Mallya con­tin­u­ing to head United Brew­eries.

A UB spokesper­son said its plans re­mained un­changed for King­fis- her East Ben­gal. “What­ever agree­ment we have with the club will con­tinue to be so,” he said.

But things aren’t that good at Mo­hun Bagan. One of Mallya’s pri­vate com­pa­nies took a 50% stake in the club and United Spir­its be­came its ti­tle spon­sor. But since Mallya sold a ma­jor­ity stake in the spir­its maker to Di­a­geo, funds to the club have dried up. With him now step­ping down fully from the liquor maker, there is more un­cer­tainty and the club is con­sid­er­ing le­gal ac­tion against United Spir­its.

United Spir­its didn’t re­spond to an email sent on early Fri­day seek­ing com­ment.

GREAT EN­THU­SI­ASM

Mallya, it seems, was more in­clined to­wards East Ben­gal.

Af­ter his pres­ence on the boards of ri­val clubs went against Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion club li­cens­ing cri­te­ria, he stepped down from Mo­hun Bagan in 2010 and handed over the board seat to son Sid­hartha while con­tin­u­ing to hold chair­man­ship at East Ben­gal.

Mo­hun Bagan re­ceived .₹ 2.75 crore a year ini­tially from United Spir­its. The amount rose to .₹ 5 crore by 2013, the year a new 10-year spon­sor­ship deal was signed. Then, Di­a­geo took con­trol of United Spir­its.

“Fund­ing to the club dried up com­pletely since Oc­to­ber 2014 in spite of United Spirit’s 10-year spon­sor­ship agree­ment with Mo­hun Bagan, com­mit­ting .₹ 80 crore in in­stal­ments,” said De­bashis Dutta, fi­nance sec­re­tary at Mo­hun Bagan Ath­letic Club. “There was a set­tle­ment planned later which didn’t see the light of the day ei­ther,” he added.

While Mallya had shown great en­thu­si­asm to­wards the game, his son, ac­cord­ing to Dutta, never turned up at any of the club’s meet­ings. Work­ing on an an­nual bud­get of .₹ 12.5 crore, the club now de­pends on funds from other stake­hold­ers with club pres­i­dent Swa­pan Sad­han Bose bail­ing it out in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions.

With its cof­fers dry, the club sent a le­gal no­tice to United Spir­its three months ago and is now work­ing to file a case against the com­pany. The green and ma­roon bat­tal­ion is count­ing on its loyal fan fol­low­ing. The club, which won the ILeague last sea­son, tops it in the on­go­ing sea­son. Arch ri­val East Ben­gal is at the third spot in the cur­rent points tally.

PER­SONAL IN­TER­EST

The red and gold East Ben­gal has a spon­sor­ship con­tract with United Brew­eries un­der which the com­pany takes care of 75-80% of its an­nual ex­penses. Amit Sen, di­rec­tor at King­fisher East Ben­gal, said there have been no hic­cups in terms of fund­ing so far. “What­ever has been com­mit­ted to us has al­ways been ad­hered to.”

In fis­cal 2016, the club had a bud­get of about .₹ 15 crore, 7.5% more than the year be­fore. Mallya had a dream of set­ting up a foot­ball academy, a proper club house and a strong ju­nior team for East Ben­gal Foot­ball Club, said Pranab Das­gupta, pres­i­dent of King­fisher East Ben­gal and a friend of Mallya.

The club man­age­ment is con­fi­dent of achiev­ing all of it and fore­sees no in­di­ca­tion of a fund crunch, even amid the en­tire clam­our to re­cover the money Mallya owes banks. “Vi­jay took per­sonal in­ter­est in the club and on many oc­ca­sions has helped us with funds be­yond the spon­sor­ship con­tract,” Das­gupta said.

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