Finmeccanica chief Orsi arrested in Italian graft probe

Bribes allegedly paid to land Indian helicopter contract

Finmeccanica chief Orsi arrested in Italian graft probe

Rome, February 12 - Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of state-controlled Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, was arrested on Monday in relation to a probe into international corruption. Orsi is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes regarding the sale to the Indian government of 12 helicopters produced by AgustaWestland, which Finmeccanica controls. Orsi was at the helm of AgustaWestland in 2010 when it won the contract to supply the helicopters. The CEO, who had known he was under investigation over the case for months, denied any wrongdoing before his arrest and said he would only resign his post if asked to do so by the Italian government. Prosecutors suspect around 50 million euros of the over-500-million-euro deal were ploughed back into kickbacks to ensure AgustaWestland won the contract. Police searched Orsi's home and the defence contractor's offices in Milan on Tuesday. AgustaWestland's current CEO Bruno Spagnolini was put under house arrest. Finmeccanica issued a statement expressing solidarity with Orsi and Spagnolini and stressing that the company's operations were continuing with "order". Outgoing Italian Premier Mario Monti said the case revealed "a problem with the governance" of Finmeccanica. The company is approximately 30% owned by the Italian state. Orsi has also denied any wrongdoing in an investigation into the alleged payment of bribes to political parties. Tuesday's arrest is sensitive because it could have an impact on the campaign for Italy's general election on February 24-25. Orsi's appointment in May 2011 was backed by the Northern League, an ally of then Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi is leading the centre-right's campaign for the upcoming vote.

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