| BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy, April 2
BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy, April 2 A consultant
accused of bribing Indian officials to help a unit of Italy's
Finmeccanica win a helicopter contract has struck a
plea bargain with Italian prosecutors, two sources with direct
knowledge of the matter said.
Under the arrangement, which must be ratified by a judge,
Guido Ralph Haschke would be sentenced for international
corruption and would serve a year and 10 months under home
detention or performing community service, the sources said.
Haschke and the prosecutor in charge of the case in the
northern Italian town of Busto Arsizio, Eugenio Fusco, declined
to comment. Under Italian law, entering a plea bargain does not
amount to an admission of guilt. Haschke has never publicly
admitted the bribery accusations.
It would be the first sentence handed down in the scandal
that has harmed state-owned defence group Finmeccanica and its
helicopter unit AgustaWestland. Prosecutors said AgustaWestland
paid bribes to win the 560 million-euro ($773 million) Indian
contract in 2010.
Former Finmeccanica Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi and the
former head of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, are on trial in
the case after being charged with international corruption and
Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Orsi and Spagnolini deny any
wrongdoing. They have said the consultancy deals related to
engineering services which have all been documented and that no
payment ended up in the pockets of Indian officials.
For Haschke, the plea bargain would mean a lighter sentence
than if he were convicted on the same charges in a trial, the
sources said. The prosecutor would avoid a lengthy trial process
that, in Italy, involves two appeals.
The sources said judge Alessandro Chionna in the Tribunal of
Busto Arsizio would hold a hearing on April 11 to decide on the
agreement between Fusco and Haschke, a Swiss-resident Italian
and U.S. national.
Fusco says money used for bribes to high-ranking Indian
officials was paid by inflating the price of consultancy deals
between AgustaWestland and firms co-owned by Haschke.
Haschke, a 62-year-old owner of a management and business
strategy consulting business, and more than a dozen other people
are under investigation but have not been formally charged.
The case has embarrassed the New Delhi government before
parliamentary elections due by May 2014.
India cancelled the helicopter deal in January, citing a
breach of integrity relating to alleged corruption after having
frozen payments for the 12 AW101 helicopters last year.
New Delhi, which has agreed to AgustaWestland's calls for
arbitration, is also seeking to recover more than 278 million
euros in bank guarantees backing the scrapped deal.
($1 = 0.7249 euros)
(Writing by Danilo Masoni; editing by Silvia Aloisi; editing by