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Chopper Scam: Trial To Begin From 19 June In Italy

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The 'instant trial' here against ex-CEO of the Italian state-controlled defence giant Finmeccanica Giuseppe Orsi and the CEO of its helicopter unit AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnoli for alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal with India will begin on June 19.

A judge in the northern Italian town of Busto Arsizio granted a prosecutor's request for the instant trial, which eliminates preliminary hearings, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Orsi and Spagnolini are suspected of corruption in relation to bribes allegedly paid to secure a contract to sell 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to India.

The Indian Defence Ministry has ordered a CBI probe into the allegations of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore after the arrest of Orsi and Spagnolini by Italian investigators in connection with the case.

Orsi was at the helm of Augusta Westland when the deal was struck and he is suspected of involvement in the payment of bribes.

Prosecutors suspect that around 50 million euros (Rs 362 crore approximately), about 10 per cent of the deal, were ploughed back into kickbacks to ensure AgustaWestland won the contract.

In February 2010, India had inked the deal to acquire the 12 three-engine AW-101 helicopters from AgustaWestland for VVIP use. The first three of the 12 AgustaWestland VVIP choppers have already arrived in India and the rest were expected in the coming months. The Indian government has however put on hold the delivery of rest of the choppers.