Italian court acquits former Agusta officials, set back for CBI

Were earlier sentenced to imprisonment

Italian court acquits former Agusta officials, set back for CBI

An Italian court on Monday acquitted Finmeccanica former president Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland former CEO Bruno Spagnolini with charges of bribing Indian officials in connection with the VVIP chopper deal.

The Italian court's order is a set back for the CBI, which had  chargesheeted both Orsi and Spangnolini along with former Air Force chief S P Tyagi and others last September.

Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Milan appeals court acquitted Orsi and Spangnolini, who were  earlier sentenced to four years six months and four years respectively, for international corruption and fake invoicing in the case.

In December 2016, the Italian supreme court of Cassation ordered a repeat of the appeals trial.

While sentencing them to imprisonment, the court had said there was "reasonable belief that corruption took place" in the VVIP helicopter deal.

India wanted to procure 12 VVIPs Helicopters from Agusta Westland, UK – a subsidiary of Finmeccanica in Italy and a bribe of about €58 million was claimed to have been paid to Indian leaders and officials.

The judgement had created ripples in India then because of mentions of the then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, senior party leaders Ahmed Patel and Oscar Fernandes as well as former national security adviser M K Narayanan.

According to the CBI chargesheet, there was an estimated loss of €398.21 million (around Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer in the deal signed by the UPA government in February 2010 for the  supply of VVIP choppers worth €556.262 million.

The CBI has informed the court that it has been able to establish money trail worth €62 million (around Rs 415.40 crore) from countries like Mauritius, Singapore, the UAE, Tunisia, the UK and the British Virgin Island.

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