India may have barred Finmeccanica from future military contracts amid bribery allegations against its subsidiary AgustaWestland in the VVIP chopper deal, but the Italian defence group is nurturing hopes of making a comeback.
The state-controlled firm is prepared to put a new proposal on the table to repair frayed ties with India, which scrapped the Rs 3,727-crore contract for 12 VVIP choppers in January and imposed a partial ban on Finmeccanica.
The firm would consider a plan that involves paying up a penalty to India to reboot the relationship.
In his first interview to an Indian newspaper, the firm’s new CEO Mauro Moretti told HT, “Everything is on the table, including the possibility of paying a penalty to settle the matter. It doesn’t mean we are guilty. It’s just that we want to end the deadlock and regain the government’s confidence.”
The chance to end this lingering episode in an advantageous way for India is an option the new government may be willing to consider.
Moretti was handpicked by Italian PM Matteo Renzi in May to turn Finmeccanica around.
He said legal proceedings in Italy had exonerated the firm and held it was not criminally liable for the alleged actions of former top executives. AgustaWestland, however, paid around Rs 3 crore as fine after the firm entered into a settlement with the prosecutors.
Moretti has written to defence minister Arun Jaitley and sought a meeting to discuss the case following the outcome of legal proceedings here. The verdict in the cases against former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and former AgustaWestland boss Bruno Spagnolini is expected this week.
The defence ministry’s decision in August not to blacklist Finmeccanica followed the attorney general ‘s advice that a complete ban on the group could affect the military’s combat readiness.
“It is possible to find a solution to avoid discontinuity in our relationship. Limitations on procurement options are not in India’s interest,” said Moretti.
The NDA government appears to be striking a balance between the need to punish defence contractors who may have violated the law and to keep the armed forces battle ready.
(The writer was in Italy at the invitation of Finmeccanica)