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AgustaWestland directors in chopper asbestos probe

Investigators allege 'delays' in reporting problems

20 February, 17:43
AgustaWestland directors in chopper asbestos probe (ANSA) - Turin, February 20 - Turin prosecutors placed a dozen former and current directors of Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland under investigation on Thursday over problems related to the presence of asbestos in helicopters supplied to the Italian armed forces and police.

Investigators are concentrating on what has been described as a 'delay' by the company in flagging up the problem, which reportedly concerns all army and police choppers. AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica, only made a full report in September 2013, prior to which reports had only been partial. The probe concerns AgustaWestland managers from the 1990s to last year.

They now face possible charges of culpable disaster. The investigation comes on the heels of a separate probe into allegations of kickbacks in exchange for a contract to supply 12 AW-101 helicopters outfitted for VIP use to the Indian government that led to the resignation of Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi last year.

India froze payments on the choppers in early 2013 after only three had been procured in the wake of claims that bribes had been paid to Indian officials to secure the contract.

It subsequently cancelled the $770 million deal at the start of this year but has agreed to take part in an arbitration process.

In January Indian media reported that the government was considering blacklisting AgustaWestland but that a final decision would be taken after consultations with the justice and defence ministries and the Central Investigation Bureau (CBI).

Sources at the Finmeccanica subsidiary denied knowledge of the matter.