Finmeccanica helicopter corruption trial enters final stages

BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy June 12 Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:24am EDT

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BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy June 12 (Reuters) - The trial of two former top mangers of Italian defence group Finmeccanica, accused of corruption in the sale of helicopters to India, is entering its final stages and a verdict could come as early as Sept. 30, the Italian court said on Thursday.

Prosecutor Eugenio Fusco has accused Giuseppe Orsi, former Finmeccanica chairman and CEO, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of the group's helicopter unit AgustaWestland, of paying bribes to Indian officials to win a 560 million euro ($762 million) contract in 2010 to sell 12 helicopters to India.

The two managers, who left Finmeccanica after being arrested in February 2013 when the investigation was ongoing, have repeatedly denied wrongdoing during the 12 months of the trial.

The verdict could be crucial for Finmeccanica's efforts to restore its reputation at a time when the group is restructuring its business and fighting for contracts in emerging countries.

AgustaWestland put particular emphasis on the deal because the helicopters were designed to carry India's president and other top-ranking officials who could be influential in any subsequent helicopter purchases.

The corruption scandal has prompted India to terminate the contract after only three helicopters were delivered and raised the spectre of a possible blacklisting of AgustaWestland from India, one of the world's fastest growing defence markets.

The court said on Thursday Orsi and Spagnolini would be given the opportunity to make declarations on July 1.

($1 = 0.7345 Euros) (Reporting by Emilio Parodi Writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark Potter)

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