AgustaWestland directors probed over copter asbestos
Investigators claim 'delays' in reporting problems20 February, 20:29
(ANSA) - Turin, February 20 - Turin prosecutors have placed a dozen former and current directors of Italian helicopter giant AgustaWestland under investigation in a probe into suspected health risks from the asbestos in helicopters supplied to the Italian armed forces and police.
Investigators led by well-known Turin magistrate Raffaele Guariniello, who has made a name for himself with soccer doping probes, are said to be focussing on what has been described as a 'delay' by the company in flagging up the problem, which reportedly concerns army and police choppers made before asbestos was banned as a potential killer in 1992. "The number of people potentially exposed to the risk of grievous or incurable diseases, including pilots, maintenance workers and flight crew, was huge," judicial source said. 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", judicial sources said. 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.