An Italian appeals court has acquitted Giuseppe Orsi, the former president of defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, over charges of alleged bribes paid in exchange for a Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal to sell 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to the Indian government.
The court also acquitted Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of the company’s helicopters subsidiary AgustaWestland, who had also been handed a four-year jail term on the same charges.
In December 2016 Italy’s highest court had ordered a retrial of the case after the former executives of the Rome-based group had been found guilty on corruption charges related to a 672 million Dollars contract to supply a dozen helicopters to New Delhi.
After yesterday’s acquittal Orsi’s lawyer said the judge found no evidence of corruption, of the passage of money or that Indian officials interfered with the tender.
A separate investigation into suspected corruption and money laundering is still open in India and involves individuals alleged to have worked as intermediaries in the deal.
India cancelled the helicopter contract in 2013 after Orsi was arrested, but AgustaWestland opposed India’s decision and the contract remains suspended and the subject of international arbitration in Paris.
Reacting to the news, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has said the acquittal of the two officers in Italy will not affect the agency’s independent probe into more than 360 crores rupees bribe case. CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said in Delhi yesterday, that CBI had a completely different probe and a very strong case.
In India, the CBI last year charged former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi in a Delhi court along with nine others for bribery in the case. The contract was scrapped by the previous UPA Government in 2014.