ROME — A former CEO of Italy’s Leonardo and a former fellow manager were given a final and definitive acquittal by Italy’s highest court on Wednesday in a bribery case dating back to the sale of helicopters to India in 2010.
Giuseppe Orsi, who ran the firm when it was named Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, a former head of the company’s helicopter business, faced multiple trials in a case that dragged on for six years, impacting the firm’s reputation and raising questions about the speed of Italy’s legal system.
Orsi and Spagnolini were arrested in 2013 on suspicion of paying bribes to a former Indian Air Force chief to buy 12 AW101 helicopters in a €560 million (U.S. $625 million) deal. Following the arrests, India canceled the contract.
Although the accusations have now been overturned in Italy, the case continues to be the subject of a corruption trial in India, which was launched as a consequence of the Italian allegations.
Ennio Amodio, a lawyer representing Orsi, said the Italian court’s decision will have repercussions on the trial in India.
"Clearly the Indian authorities will have to take note of the fact that at the end of a very detailed probe it was found there had never been any corruption," he told Reuters.
When the complex case first went to trial, Orsi and Spagnolini were acquitted of international corruption, but received 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, with Orsi and Spagnolini found guilty on both counts. Orsi was given a four-and-half-year jail term and Spagnolini four years.
Under Italy’s three-tier legal system, the case then headed to the country’s highest court, which found fault with the convictions and sent the case back for another trial in December 2016.
The men were acquitted last year, but prosecutors again appealed, pushing the case back up to the high court a second time.
The high court’s decision Wednesday to back the acquittals, citing a lack of proof, means no further appeals can be requested.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.