MILAN – A man was arrested in Switzerland on Friday in connection with a probe into allegations that Italian defense group Finmeccanica paid kickbacks to win an Indian helicopter deal, Italian judicial sources said.
In an emailed statement, Swiss authorities said they had asked magistrates to arrest an Italian-U.S. citizen on allegations of money laundering and corruption in connection with the supply of helicopters to India by an Italian state-owned company. The statement did not elaborate.
The man is being investigated in Italy on allegations he was an intermediary in a bribe paid to secure the 560-million-euro Indian contract won by Finmeccanica unit AgustaWestland in 2010, the sources said.
He was arrested in a probe into money laundering by federal prosecutors in Lugano connected to a main probe by Italian authorities, they added.
That probe has targeted Finmeccanica's Italian Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi, who is facing calls by local politicians to leave the helm of the defense conglomerate, the country's second-biggest private group after Fiat .
In April, Italian prosecutors went to Switzerland to collect evidence and verify money flows through Swiss accounts.
Orsi's lawyer said on Monday that the case was a "blatant mistake" and that the executive did not intend to resign but would quit only if the government, which owns around 30 percent of Finmeccanica, told him to do so.
Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli on Friday shrugged off reporters' questions over whether the government supported Orsi.
"It is not a matter of backing or not backing. Finmeccanica is a company and we are shareholders," Grilli said on the sidelines of an event in Bologna.
Orsi, who was named CEO in May 2011, took over as chairman in December last year after his predecessor Pier Francesco Guarguaglini resigned over a separate corruption investigation.
He has since been steering the loss-making company through a tough restructuring, but has been weakened by news, which broke in February, that he was being investigated in the Indian probe.
The investigation was triggered by allegations of an ex-Finmeccanica employee, himself under investigation.
(Reporting By Emilio Parodi and Roberto Landucci; Additional Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Caroline Copley; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)