Finmeccanica unit denies paying agents to win India contracts

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 28, 2012 18:30 hrs

MILAN, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Finmeccanica reiterated it has always done business in India through official channels, rebutting media reports its helicopter unit had used two agents to secure a contract.

In an emailed statement, AgustaWestland said on Sunday it had never appointed two men named in press reports as agents or intermediaries in its VVIP helicopter programme.

In India companies are not allowed to use agents in contracts of this nature.

An Italian anti-corruption probe centering on a 560 million euro ($724.4 million) Indian helicopter contract (the VVIP programme) has targeted Finmeccanica chairman and chief executive Giuseppe Orsi, who has denied wrongdoing.

The probe, triggered by allegations of an ex-Finmeccanica employee who is himself under investigation, focuses on alleged kickbacks paid to secure an order of 12 helicopters India awarded in 2010

Meanwhile, a recent report in the Indian Express said an official in the Indian army had asked for a $5 million backhander to help AgustaWestand win another bid for 197 light warfare helicopters.

"AgustaWestland is astonished that the press refers to a memorandum which is unknown, directly or indirectly, to the company and is related to a programme other than the VVIP," the company said, adding it had been excluded from the bid since it had not met tender requirements.

"AgustaWestland confirms its relations with the Indian Ministry of Defence have always been conducted through the official channel, in line with all applicable rules," it said.

Finmeccanica head Orsi has been steering the loss-making group through a restructuring, but has been weakened by news he was being investigated in the Indian probe. ($1 = 0.7733 euros) (Reporting By Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)

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