Italian Court Finds Graft in Agusta Deal
Milan appeals court says bribes were paid to Indian officials
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.
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.
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.