Finmeccanica Denies Paying Bribes as Graft Probe Widens

Finmeccanica SpA denied paying any bribes to obtain contracts in Panama in a widening corruption probe that led to the arrest today of its former commercial director and targeted Italy’s former industry minister.

The Rome-based defense contractor denied allegations that it paid “any form of compensation for mediation” to obtain three contracts signed in 2010 by its units Selex Sistemi Integrati, Telespazio Argentina and AugustaWestland with the government of Panama, according to a statement. The company confirmed the arrest of Paolo Pozzessere, who resigned in September 2011 as commercial director, and currently advises Finmeccanica on Russia partnerships.

Naples magistrates have also targeted Italy’s former Industry Minister Claudio Scajola for allegedly helping the state-controlled defense contractor secure contracts in Brazil.

“I acted with complete transparency and always respecting the law,” he said in an interview with SkyTG24.

Finmeccanica Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi is undertaking the company’s biggest overhaul in at least a decade and is under pressure to deliver 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in asset sales to reduce 4.66 billion euros of debt. Finmeccanica, its AugustaWestland unit and Orsi are under a separate corruption probe for the supply of 12 helicopters to India and they have all denied any wrongdoing.

Scajola said that he had two meetings with Brazil’s then-President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva that were also attended by other Italian government officials to discuss potential contracts for Finmeccanica in Brazil.

“It was my duty to accompany Italian companies and I don’t think anything dirty should be seen in that,” he said.

Scajola said that he is willing to travel to Naples to be heard by investigators in the case as soon as possible. Orsi said Oct. 15 he doesn’t plan to resign because he wants to defend himself in the trial to show he’s extraneous to the accusations. Pozzessere has denied any wrongdoing of any kind.

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