New Delhi, February 25 - Indian courts began a preliminary investigation Monday into alleged bribes paid by Italy's AgustaWestland helicopter maker to land a lucrative contract with the Indian government. The probe was announced by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which last week obtained documents from authorities in Italy in connection with the case. AgustaWestland, the helicopter division of defence giant Finmeccanica, said last week that it was cooperating with Indian authorities in their investigation of an allegedly tainted helicopter contract involving the purchase of 12 AW-101 helicopters. Bribery accusations led two weeks ago to the resignation and arrest of Finmeccanica chief executive officer Giuseppe Orsi and a threat from the Indian government to completely cancel the purchase contract. India has already taken initial steps to cancel the helicopter contract by freezing payments on the units, two of which have been delivered and one on the way, pending the results of the corruption probe. India's defence ministry also said it had asked Finmeccanica's new CEO, Alessandro Pansa, for any information he might be able to provide on suspected bribes. Finmeccanica is Italy's biggest defence contractor and a major world player, employing some 70,000 people.