ROME — An Italian court acquitted two former Leonardo managers Monday in a bribery case related to the sale of AW101 helicopters to India in 2010.
Giuseppe Orsi, the firm’s former CEO, and Bruno Spagnolini, a former head of the company’s helicopter unit, were cleared after judges decided there was insufficient proof against them.
“With all the damage to the company, the damage to us is minor,” Spagnolini said after the verdict was read out.
The ruling is the latest chapter in a lengthy case punctuated by conflicting verdicts that damaged the company’s global standing while highlighting Italy’s sluggish and labyrinthine legal system.
The charges stemmed from the €560 million (U.S. $672 million) deal to sell 12 AW101 helicopters to India in 2010, when Orsi was head of AgustaWestland, then a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica, which is now known as Leonardo.
Orsi and Spagnolini were first arrested in 2013 on suspicion of paying bribes to the former Indian Air Force chief to buy the AW101. Following the arrests, India canceled the contract.
A court acquitted Orsi and Spagnolini of international corruption, handing them instead two year sentences for the lesser charge of false bookkeeping.
Under Italian law, prosecutors can appeal against acquittals, and an appeal was held in 2016. This time, Orsi and Spagnolini were found guilty on both counts, with Orsi receiving four and a half years and Spagnolini four years.
But under Italy’s three-tier legal system, the case then headed to the Supreme Court, which found fault with the verdict and sent the case back for another trial in December 2016.
That trial wrapped up Monday with the acquittals. It is unclear whether the case will once again return to the Supreme Court, although Orsi’s lawyer, Ennio Amodio, suggested the affair might have now reached the end of the line.
The verdict, he said, “closes a case which should have been clear from the start to investigators.” He added that the judge had seen no evidence of corruption, of bribes being paid or of Indian officials interfering with the tender.
An Indian investigation instigated by the Italian trials is ongoing. The Indian government was a civil plaintiff in the Italian case, and Indian officials were in court in Milan on Monday to hear the verdict.
They declined to comment to reporters.