Embattled Anglo-Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland may face a probe in the UK over its 480 million pounds scandal-hit deal with India for the supply of 12 VVIP choppers. The contract was suspended in February 2013 and terminated in January this year by India following allegations that Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland's parent company, paid bribes to Indian defence officials to win the deal.
Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has confirmed that it is monitoring the ongoing corruption trial in Italy to see if any UK anti-bribery laws were broken. "The UK has not launched an investigation but, as AgustaWestland is subject to the UK Anti Bribery Act, the UK government is monitoring proceedings in Italy carefully. "Until that trial has completed, it would be inappropriate to speculate further," an FCO spokesperson said. The UK's Serious Fraud Office can prosecute any such anti-bribery cases.
AgustaWestland has firmly denied allegations of wrongdoing which emerged from an investigation in Italy, leading to an arrest warrant for Giuseppe Orsi, Finmeccanica's chief executive. Investigators allege he paid 25.4 million pounds to a person who acted as a middleman between the company and Indian officials.
Orsi was replaced as the head of Finmeccanica after his arrest earlier this year. He is now on trial alongside Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of the group's helicopter unit, accused of paying bribes but they have also denied wrongdoing during the trial, due to conclude in September.
Meanwhile in India, the Directorate General of Acquisition is expected to make a detailed briefing before India's new Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on the sale of the AW-101 VVIP choppers. The government had recently reclaimed around 200 million pounds in bank guarantees that had backed the scrapped helicopter deal after Italian courts revoked a freeze on the accounts related to the contract.
AgustaWestland had won the disputed order in 2010 to supply 12 AW101 helicopters partly produced in Britain to India, winning over rival Sikorsky, a unit of US defence group United Technologies.