(Adds lawyer comment)
MILAN, May 22 (Reuters) - Italy’s supreme court on Wednesday acquitted two former executives of defence company Leonardo in a bribery case related to a 2010 helicopter contract with the Indian government. Giuseppe Orsi, former chief executive of the Italian state-controlled defence group previously known as Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former head of its helicopter business AgustaWestland, were both cleared of corruption charges.
The state prosecutor in the case had asked for the pair to be acquitted citing a lack of sufficient proof.
An appeals court in 2016 had found the two former executives of the Rome-based group guilty on corruption charges related to a 560 million euro ($672 million) contract to supply a dozen helicopters, giving them prison sentences of four and 4-1/2 years.
However, Italy’s highest court ordered a retrial of the case, and in 2018 another appeals court acquitted the two. No further appeal is possible after Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling.
A separate trial into suspected corruption and money laundering is still open in India.
Ennio Amodio, a lawyer representing Orsi, said the Supreme Court decision would inevitably have repercussions on the trial in India.
“Clearly the Indian authorities will have to take note of the fact that at the end of a very detailed probe it was found there had never been any corruption...,” he said.
The case was a big political issue in Italy and India when it opened in 2012 and tarnished the company’s reputation at a time when India had established itself as one the world’s biggest arms buyers.
The Italian group has always said the case was against individuals rather than the company itself.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Leonardo in July 2014. Its helicopter business AgustaWestland, which was treated separately, agreed a 7.5 million euro settlement with the court a month later.
India cancelled the helicopter contract in 2013 after Orsi was arrested, but AgustaWestland opposed India’s decision. The contract remains suspended and the subject of international arbitration in Paris. (Reporitng by Domenico Lusi, writing by Emilio Parodi. Editing by Jane Merriman and Kirsten Donovan)
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