Italy prosecutors aim to hasten Finmeccanica graft trial: source

MILAN Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:32pm EDT

Finmeccanica Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi poses next to a helicopter during the opening ceremony of the new Terminal of Vertiporto dell'Urbe in Rome in this January 19, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Files

Finmeccanica Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi poses next to a helicopter during the opening ceremony of the new Terminal of Vertiporto dell'Urbe in Rome in this January 19, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Remo Casilli/Files

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian prosecutors investigating allegations of corruption by Finmeccanica in the sale of 12 helicopters to India believe their evidence is strong enough to warrant an urgent trial without preliminary proceedings, a legal source with direct knowledge of the situation said.

Prosecutors in the city of Busto Arsizio will ask a judge to order that Finmeccanica's former chairman, Giuseppe Orsi, and other suspects skip preliminary hearings and are sent directly to trial, the source said.

Pre-trial hearings can last for months.

A spokesman for Orsi's lawyer, Ennio Amodio, was not immediately reachable for comment on Sunday.

The investigation escalated in February with the arrest of Orsi, who has remained in jail since then.

Prosecutors allege bribes were paid to intermediaries to help Finmeccanica win the 560 million-euro contract in 2010 when Orsi was at the helm of the group's helicopter unit AgustaWestland.

The arrest warrant said the Indian tender was changed to deliberately favor the Italian firm.

Finmeccanica and Orsi, who quit from the state-owned defense group a few days after his arrest, deny any wrongdoing.

India has frozen payments for the helicopters pending an inquiry by the country's Central Bureau of Investigation and has said it is seeking to cancel the deal.

(Reporting By Emilio Parodi, writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Lisa Jucca and Marguerita Choy)