In UK, Finmeccanica roped in key defence officials | delhi | Hindustan Times
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In UK, Finmeccanica roped in key defence officials

Italian major Finmeccanica's tryst with controversy runs as deep as its relations with Britain's top defence officials.

delhi Updated: Feb 23, 2013 19:47 IST
Sanjib Kr Baruah

Italian major Finmeccanica has been adept in roping in the services of some of Britain’s top defence officials.

Former UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon had taken up a role as senior vice-president of AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, which has been accused of pumping millions of dollars as kickbags to bag a contract to supply 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to ferry VVIPs in India.

In 2010, Hoon was named in a Channel 4 sting operation where he is said to have admitted that he wanted to translate his knowledge and contacts into something that "frankly makes money".

Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the ministry of defence, served as chairman, Finmeccanica, UK, till last year. Tebbit’s name had figured in a controversy in 2010 after secret defence papers revealed how “the former head civil servant at the defence ministry lobbied behind the scenes to protect a £1billion contract for Lynx helicopters - a deal some experts believe has contributed to the soaring death toll in Afghanistan”. Lynx helicopters are also Finmeccanica products.

Baron Bach, minister of defence procurement in the Tony Blair government was also in 2007 employed as a director at Finmeccanica where he is said to have been instrumental in helping bag AgustaWestland chopper deals for supply to US and Afghanistan.

Another British air force veteran, Sir Brian Burridge, who commanded the UK Joint contingent of 43,000 personnel in the 2003 Iraq War, is also employed as Finmeccanica vice-president, strategic marketing. For three years, Burridge was principal staff officer to the chief of the defence staff.

An important government functionary, Sir David Omand, who supervised UK’s intelligence community including holding the budget for the UK’s three secret intelligence agencies, is also the serving non-executive director, Finmeccanica UK.

Keith O' Nions, a former chief scientific adviser at the defence minister from 2000 to 2004, also found employment as non-executive directors at Finmeccanica.

Finmeccanica through its various subsidiaries and joint collaborations, supplies equipment related to defence, homeland security and intelligence, electronic warfare, cyber space and transport.

The company is under a cloud in India after charges that it had allegedly roped in the expert experience of former Indian Air Force chief SP Tyagi through a web of middlemen and a murky trail of bribe money to help influence big defence contracts.