ROME — Italian tax police are probing suspected corruption in the sale of helicopters by Italian group Finmeccanica to Algeria.

On Thursday, police issued a press release stating that officers carried out 41 search orders at various locations in Italy, including in the area of Varese, home to Finmeccanica's helicopter unit AgustaWestland.

The statement said 41 search orders were being executed in various locations across Italy, including in the area of Varese, where AgustaWestland's administrative offices are based.

Prosecutors said on Thursday the investigation concerned the alleged creation of slush funds and fake invoices by former AgustaWestland managers to win a contract to supply helicopters to the Algerian government in the period 2009-2011.

Finmeccanica did not comment on the investigation.

An Italian court sentenced the former head of Finmeccanica unit AgustaWestland, Giuseppe Orsi, to a two-year suspended sentence for false bookkeeping last year, but cleared him of a more serious charge of international corruption related to a €560 million (US $601 million) deal to sell 12 helicopters to India in 2010.

Following Orsi's arrest in 2013 on suspicion of paying bribes to the former Indian Air Force chief to buy the AW101, India canceled the contract.

The announcement of the new probe comes a day after Finmeccanica announced it had drawn up a new anti-corruption code.

Email: tkington@defensenews.com

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