Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi has been arrested in connection with a corruption probe, officials said Tuesday. (Daniele Scudieri)
Italian police on Tuesday arrested Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Italian defense group Finmeccanica, in connection with a probe into suspected corruption at the firm, a company spokesman said.
In addition, Bruno Spagnolini, the head of Finmeccanica helicopter unit AgustaWestland, was placed under house arrest, the spokesman said.
The arrests are linked to an inquiry into alleged bribes paid as AgustaWestland sold 12 AW101 helicopters to India in 2010.
The probe into the 560 million-euro deal was launched after allegations were made by Lorenzo Borgogni, a former external relations manager at the firm who was sacked over ethical violations. Finmeccanica has said it is suing him for defamation.
Orsi has said the allegations, which center on a time he was AgustaWestland CEO, are unfounded.
In a statement released Tuesday, Finmeccanica expressed “solidarity” with Orsi and said it hoped the matter would be rapidly resolved.
“The objective is to maintain continuity in all operations,” said a spokesman.
Asked if a manager had been appointed to run the company in Orsi’s absence, a second spokesman said, “We are surprised by this decision, and we have no news yet on who could step in.”
The sale of the helicopters to India has moved ahead, with the first delivery in December 2012.
The Indian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Italian magistrates had shared no information about the probe with India.
Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of Defence has ordered its own inquiry into the purchase of the helicopters by the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). India purchased the helicopters for use by VVIP functionaries.
AgustaWestland is eyeing an Indian Navy requirement to replace anti-submarine Sea King helicopters. The CBI probe will affect the chances of the Italian company doing business in India, official said.
According to Italian media reports, police were searching Finmeccanica offices Tuesday in Milan.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has refrained from commenting on the probe, said on Italian television Tuesday that “There is a problem with the governance of Finmeccanica at the moment, and we will face up to it.”
Monti is campaigning ahead of Italian elections Feb. 24 and 25.
Orsi’s arrest does not necessarily mean he will be charged any time soon, as Italian magistrates can place suspects in custody during investigations. Magistrates in the northern town of Busto Arsizio, who are heading up the probe, could yet release him before deciding whether to request that charges are made.
The arrest follows the clearing of Orsi’s predecessor, Pierfrancesco Guarguaglini, who stepped down in December 2011 following corruption allegations made by a former consultant. That probe was dropped last December.
Vivek Raghuvanshi contributed to this report from New Delhi.