Italy seeks arrest of British, Indian nationals in Finmeccanica graft case

MILAN, July 16 Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:00pm EDT

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MILAN, July 16 (Reuters) - An Italian judge has issued arrest warrants against a British consultant and an Indian lawyer accused of helping Finmeccanica unit AgustaWestland bribe Indian officials to win a high profile helicopter contract, their lawyers said on Wednesday.

The judge declared the two fugitives and said the paperwork had been sent to their lawyers.

Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos, the lawyer for Christian Michell, a consultant based in Dubai, dismissed the arrest warrant as "absurd".

Maria Francesca Fuso said her client Gautam Khaitan, who lives in India, could not be considered a fugitive.

"He knew nothing about this measure, there has been no attempt to evade justice. He's Indian, he works in India and he lives in India," she said, adding that her client would appeal against the measure.

The warrants were issued as part of a broader investigation into suspected bribes paid in connection with a 560 million euro ($757 million) order to supply 12 presidential helicopters to India in 2010.

AgustaWestland won the contract but New Delhi terminated the deal in January 2013 after corruptions allegations emerged as part of an investigation by Italian prosecutors.

Former Finmeccanica Chairman and CEO, Giuseppe Orsi, and the former CEO of AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnolini have already been sent to trial in the case on charges of international corruption and falsifying invoices they have repeatedly denied. A verdict is expected in October.

The case has dented the reputation of Finmeccanica and raised the spectre of the Italian state controlled defence contractor being blacklisted from the lucrative Indian market. ($1 = 0.7394 Euros) (Reporting by Emilio Parodi, writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Alison Williams)

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