Troubled Finmeccanica names Pansa as new chief executive

Replaces accused Orsi at scandal-plagued defence giant

Troubled Finmeccanica names Pansa as new chief executive

Rome, February 13 - Finmeccanica's board of directors Wednesday replaced the former chief executive of the defence giant, arrested Tuesday in a bribery scandal, at an emergency board meeting. Sources said Alessandro Pansa was named as president and chief executive officer to replace Giuseppe Orsi who is under investigation into suspected kickbacks in the 2010 sale to India of 12 helicopters by Finmeccanica's aerospace unit AgustWestland. Pansa, who has been the company's general manager, was named alongside senior director Admiral Guido Venturoni, who takes the post of deputy chairman, sources said. Earlier in the day, Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli voiced confidence that the board would "make the right decision on new governance" for the group, one of Italy's biggest companies and controlled by the Italian State via a 30.1% stake. Trading in Finmeccanica stock was briefly suspended during the day after an excessive fall in its share value on the Milan bourse. Shares fell over 5%, prompting bourse authority Consob to take the company off the board. It ended the day with a 4% loss. Stocks fell after India was reported to have decided to halt the purchase of the helicopters, two of which have already been delivered and one of which is on the way. Although a defence ministry spokesman said he had "no knowledge" of a cancellation of the contract, Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony said the contract would be scrapped if the allegations of corruption being investigated by Italian prosecutors are proven. Antony added that Finmeccanica risks being put on New Delhi's company blacklist. "Finmeccanica could end up on the blacklist and the contract could be cancelled," he said after announcing he had ordered Indian investigators to look at the case. "We will act as soon as we have the results of our investigation". Meanwhile the leader of the Northern League, whose regionalist party was reported to have played a role in Orsìs appointment under a previous government led by Silvio Berlusconi, said the League was taking legal action after media reports linked it to the alleged corruption. "Today I'll launch new legal action against that band of professional defamers," Roberto Maroni said, citing daily newspapers La Repubblica and Il Fatto Quotidiano. Orsi, who was appointed in May 2011, is considered close to the League, Berlusconìs main ally. "Orsi is not a League man," Maroni said. "He was appointed (by Berlusconi's last government) because he is good". Among the claims made by the two dailies was that Orsi - allegedly prompted by then interior minister Maroni and then League leader Umberto Bossi - moved Finmeccanica facilities from southern to northern Italy.

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