The Indian Ministry of Defense on Tuesday said that all new deals with Finmeccanica, parent company of AgustaWestland, will be put on hold until further notice.
"An internal circular/advisory has been issued to not further process any acquisition project in which Finmeccanica is in the fray as a vendor till we get the attorney general's opinion on the entire blacklisting issue in the VVIP helicopter case (the 556 million Euro contract was scrapped on January 1)," an MOD official was quoted as saying by The Times of India newspaper.
The news comes soon after Finmeccanica entered a plea bargain with Italian prosecutors in connection with the Indian-VVIP helicopter bribery charge. And has agreed to pay a fine in return of the company not being made criminally liable for the alleged actions of bribery by its former top executives who face prison terms.
Thus clearing Finmeccanica of any possible charges still held against the company’s former CEO Giuseppe Orsi and former CEO of AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnolini and several middlemen. The prosecutors have agreed not to press for a clause that makes the Italian defence company liable for crimes committed by its employees in return of what Finmeccanica calls a "negligible fine" to be paid by the entity, according to various media reports.
"The decision to settle with the Prosecutor was taken, in light of the reorganization underway within the Finmeccanica Group, to refocus energies on business and market opportunities globally. This decision is not in any way an admission of any wrongdoing or liability," the company has said in a statement on the plea bargain.
Meanwhile, Italian prosecutors are pushing for a six-year jail term for Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and a five-year term for AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini for hiring middlemen to funnel bribes to Indian officials.
India has since cancelled the deal for 12 VVIP choppers and New Delhi has already recovered 228 out of the 252 million Euros it had paid for the contract by invoking the integrity pact and encashing of bank guarantees.