Judge approves consultant's plea deal in Finmeccanica bribery case - sources

BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy Fri Apr 11, 2014 10:11pm IST

The headquarters of Italian defence and aerospace company Finmeccanica is seen in Rome May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files

The headquarters of Italian defence and aerospace company Finmeccanica is seen in Rome May 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi/Files

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BUSTO ARSIZIO, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian judge approved on Friday a plea bargain deal between prosecutors and a consultant accused of bribing Indian officials to help a unit of Italy's Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) win a helicopter contract, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Under the deal - which was reached last week but needed to be ratified by a judge - Guido Ralph Haschke was sentenced for international corruption to serve a year and 10 months under home detention or performing community service, the sources said.

This is the first sentence handed down in the scandal that has harmed state-owned defence group Finmeccanica and its helicopter unit AgustaWestland. Prosecutors said AgustaWestland paid about 50 million euros in bribes to win the 560 million euro Indian contract in 2010.

Under Italian law, entering a plea bargain does not amount to an admission of guilt. Haschke, 62, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, has never publicly admitted the bribery accusations.

Former Finmeccanica Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi and the former head of AgustaWestland, Bruno Spagnolini, are on trial in the case after being charged with international corruption and falsifying invoices.

Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, Orsi and Spagnolini deny any wrongdoing. They have said the consultancy deals related to engineering services which have all been documented and that no payment ended up in the pockets of Indian officials.

For Haschke, a Swiss-resident Italian and U.S. national, the plea bargain means he gets a lighter sentence than if he were convicted on the same charges in a trial. The prosecutor avoids a lengthy trial process that, in Italy, involves two appeals.

The sources said Judge Alessandro Chionna in the Tribunal of Busto Arsizio would give Haschke, who owns a management and business strategy consulting business, the reasons for the sentence in around 15 days.

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Pravin Char)

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