Italian police arrested the current and former CEOs of AgustaWestland on bribery charges this morning and raided the company’s Milan headquarters. Giuseppe Orsi, who served as the helicopter manufacturer’s CEO until December 2011 and is currently head of its parent company, Finmeccanica, was taken into custody, while current AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini was placed under house arrest.
The charges stem from alleged bribes paid by AgustaWestland in 2010 to facilitate the $749 million sale of 12 AW101 heavy helicopters to the government of India for VIP transport. Other individuals involved in the transaction were arrested last year. In a statement, Finmeccanica expressed confidence in the executives and the Italian judicial system, and said the arrests would not affect ongoing business or development programs.
Orsi has known of the investigation for some time, long maintained his innocence and offered to resign last year if Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti requested it. His arrest comes less than two weeks before nationally scheduled elections.
Finmeccanica is 32-percent owned by the Italian government and Orsi is leading a politically unpopular campaign to divest the company of its unprofitable non-core assets, including energy and rail car manufacturing.