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Italy helicopter company in bribe probe says it is clean

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

AgustaWestland, a unit of Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica, said Saturday that it was complying with India's request for clarifications over a bribery scandal and had fully respected the law.

"AgustaWestland is confident that the full compliance with the relevant laws as well as the good conduct of its past and present senior executives and managers will be demonstrated as soon as practicable," it said in a note.

India on Friday had said it had taken steps to cancel a $748 million contract for 12 helicopters from AustaWestland amid allegations the deal was won through bribes of up to 50 million euros ($66 million).

The ministry of defence said it had "initiated action for cancellation" of the contract and asked the Italian firm to "reply within seven days" if terms of the contract and an "integrity pact" it signed in 2010 had been violated.

AgustaWestland confirmed that the ministry had "given notice requesting information within seven days", and said it was compling with the request.

The scandal toppled the head of the head of the suspected defence company, Giuseppe Orsi, who resigned from behind prison bars in Italy on Friday.

The former head of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, is also behind bars.

India, which has put payments to the company on hold, has already received three of the choppers. The rest were to be delivered by the end of 2014.

The purchase came under scrutiny from Italian investigators probing allegations the group had broken the law by paying bribes to foreign officials.

Italian prosecutors suspect that kickbacks worth up to 10 percent of the deal were paid to Indian officials to ensure AgustaWestland won the contract.

Cash was allegedly handed to a cousin of former Indian air force chief S.P. Tyagi, who denies wrongdoing, with more money funnelled via a web of middlemen and companies in London, Switzerland, Tunisia and Mauritius, press reports say.

Orsi denies any wrongdoing and his lawyer has called the allegations against him "inconsistent" and his arrest "unjustified".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130216/italy-helicopter-company-bribe-probe-says-it-clean