May 29, 2018 / 4:08 PM / 22 days ago

Former Leonardo executives temporarily relieved from having to appear in India trial

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s highest administrative court on Tuesday temporarily denied a request by a New Delhi court for two former Leonardo executives to appear as defendants in an alleged corruption case.

Finmeccanica Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi poses in a helicopter during the opening ceremony of the new Terminal of Vertiporto dell'Urbe in Rome January 19, 2009. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

The decision by Italy’s State Council - seen in court documents - means the top managers will not have to show up at a May 30 hearing in India related to a 2010 helicopter contract the defence group signed with the Indian government.

In Italy Giuseppe Orsi, former chief executive of the Italian state-controlled defence group previously known as Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former head of its helicopter unit AgustaWestland, were both cleared of corruption charges in January.

The case was a big political issue in Italy and India when it opened in 2012 and severely tarnished the company’s reputation at a time when India had established itself as one of the world’s biggest arms buyers.

The decision overturns one by a lower Italian court on Friday, which said the top managers had to take part in the trial.

Had the position not been changed and if the executives did not present themselves, the Indian court could have issued an international arrest warrant.

But the State Council’s ruling is only temporary and a final decision over whether they should take part or not will be taken on June 21.

Leonardo is involved in the Indian case because of “corporate liability” of the “mother” company as per Indian law.

India cancelled the 560 million euro ($649 million) contract to supply a dozen helicopters to New Delhi in 2013 after Orsi was arrested. AgustaWestland opposed India’s decision and the contract remains suspended and the subject of international arbitration in Paris.

($1 = 0.8634 euros)

Reporting by Domenico Lusi; writing by Giulia Segreti; editing by Susan Fenton

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