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Business News

Gym bags ‘stuffed full of cash’ in Italian bribe case


Two ex-managers at the Italian defence giant Finmeccanica  – whose former chief executive is standing trial on bribery charges involving its UK helicopter firm AgustaWestland – were yesterday arrested over separate corruption allegations.

As part of one of three major investigations involving the firm, Lorenzo Borgogni, Finmeccanica’s former head of external relations, and Stefano Carlini, who was operating manager of its Selex Service Management subsidiary, were placed under house arrest.

Two Rome businessmen were also arrested, Italian police said.

The investigation centres around Sistri, a system to trace waste electronically run by Selex, and allegations that slush funds were set up to pay bribes.

In one instance, claimed Naples prosecutor Francesco Greco, e4m in cash was delivered to the offices of Finmeccanica in a gym bag.

The arrests come as Finmeccanica’s former chief executive, Giuseppe Orsi, and Bruno Spagnolini, the former head of AgustaWestland, stand trial on corruption charges over a $750m (£480m) contract to sell helicopters to India.

Prosecutors claim bribes were paid to seal the deal for 12 AgustaWestland helicopters, which was signed in 2010.

Both Mr Orsi and Mr Spagnolini deny any wrongdoing. Mr Orsi resigned as chief executive in February 2013 following his arrest, saying he wanted to “help to calm the atmosphere”.

In a third case, another former manager at Finmeccanica is also facing trial over a helicopter contract and allegations of corruption, this time involving Panama.

Finmeccanica has always denied any wrongdoing in the two cases. The firm, which is 30 per cent owned by the Italian government, declined to comment on the latest arrests.

Last week Finmeccanica’s current chief executive, Alessandro Pansa, who took over from Mr Orsi, announced that the company had made its first profit for three years in 2013.

The company has been undergoing a major restructuring in an attempt to focus on its aerospace and defence operations.

Mr Pansa claimed that the company had “worked hard in order to restore its credibility on the market”, telling the Financial Times: “We are doing what we told the market we would do.”