October 21, 2012 / 3:00 PM / 8 years ago

Man arrested in Finmeccanica India deal probe released

MILAN, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Guido Ralph Haschke, a businessman who has advised Finmeccanica, said he had been released after being arrested on Friday in Switzerland in connection with an Italian probe into alleged bribes paid by the defence group.

“I was immediately released because the judge reckoned that there was no reason for the arrest,” Haschke told Reuters on Sunday by phone from his home in the Swiss canton of Ticino.

That confirmed a report in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera which also said Swiss authorities had kept Haschke’s Italian and U.S. passports.

Swiss authorities were not available to comment.

Haschke is being investigated in Italy on allegations he was an intermediary in a bribe paid to secure a 560 million euro ($730 million) contract for 12 helicopters won by Finmeccanica unit AgustaWestland in 2010 from India.

He said he was “completely extraneous” to the accusations.

Italian judicial sources had said on Friday a man had been arrested in a probe by federal prosecutors in Lugano into money laundering connected to the main investigation by Italian authorities.

In April, Italian prosecutors went to Switzerland to collect evidence and verify money flows through Swiss accounts.

The main Italian probe has targeted Finmeccanica chairman and chief executive Giuseppe Orsi, who has denied wrongdoing.

Politicians have called for the government, which owns about 30 percent of Finmeccanica, to intervene and force a management shake-up at the country’s second-biggest private company.

Orsi’s lawyer said last Monday the case was a “blatant mistake” and he would quit only if the government told him to do so.

Named CEO in May 2011, Orsi also took over as chairman last December after Pier Francesco Guarguaglini resigned from the role over a separate corruption investigation.

Orsi has since been steering the loss-making company through a restructuring, but has been weakened by news in February he was being investigated in the Indian probe.

The investigation was triggered partly by allegations of a disgruntled former Finmeccanica employee, himself under investigation.

In May, Finmeccanica said probes into Indian orders and ties with Haschke would not affect its 2011 results retrospectively. ($1 = 0.7674 euro) (Reporting By Danilo Masoni; Additional reporting by Caroline Copley in Zurich and Catherine Hornby in Rome; Editing by Dan Lalor) (danilo.masoni@thomsonreuters.com; +39-02-66129734; Reuters Messaging: danilo.masoni.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

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