Indian VVIP Chopper scam: Italian court sentences former CEOs to two years prison, drops corruption charges

Rome: An Italian court has sentenced the former CEOs of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland to two years of imprisonment for falsifying invoices to funnel money to an Indian company in the VVIP Chopper scam even as the prosecutors failed to prove their charges of corruption in the 2010 contract to supply India with 12 helicopters.

Indian VVIP Chopper scam: Italian court sentences former CEOs to two years prison, drops corruption charges

Picture for representational purposes only

Ending a trial that has lasted for over a year, the court in Busto Arsizio sentenced former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini to a prison term only for falsifying company records to funnel money to a middlemen Guido Haschke, who had been accused by the prosecution of bribing officials in India to swing the Rs.3546-crore chopper deal for the Italian company.

However, with little help from Indian agencies who have made no progress in connecting the bribe money with officials and decision makers, the Italian prosecutions case of bribery did not find merit in the court.

The prosecution also could not produce accused Gautam Khaitan, the lawyer who is alleged to have helped funnel the money, as he did not travel to Italy. Khaitan currently is in custody of the Enforcement Directorate, who are probing money laundering charges.

However, the Italian company has been fined over Rs56 crore for irregularities in the Indian contract by the Italian court. In addition, alleged middleman Guido Haschke has been sentenced to a 22-month prison term for facilitating the money transfer from the company.

In India, the 2010 deal for 12 VVIP choppers has been cancelled and New Delhi has already recovered 228 out of the 252 million Euros it had paid for the contract by invoking the integrity pact and encashing of bank guarantees.

As things stand, India has partially blocked the Finmeccanica group from future defence contracts. Arbitration proceedings between the firm and the Indian government on the VVIP Chopper deal have also been initiated. Both the CBI and ED are probing the case currently.