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Italian defense giant seeks to complete India helicopter sale after former execs acquitted

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MILAN — Finmeccanica CEO Mauro Moretti said he will seek talks with India over a suspended helicopter contract after an Italian court on Thursday acquitted two former executives of corruption in the multi-million euro deal.

Former Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and former CEO of the AgustaWestland helicopter-making division Bruno Spagnolini were acquitted of international corruption charges alleging they had overseen a system of bribes that helped the defense giant secured the 560 million-euro ($670 million) deal for 12 helicopters. They were convicted of false invoicing and sentenced to two years.

Moretti said the verdict, along with prosecutors' decision to drop charges this summer alleging that Finmeccanica itself engaged in bribery as part of the corporate culture, releases the defense giant "once and for all, from the damage incurred to its image, internationally, over the past few years." Finmeccanica is 30-percent state-owned and Italy's second-largest industrial concern.

The CEO said he would work to complete the sale of the final nine helicopters in the India deal, citing the lack of findings for corruption. India had halted delivery under an integrity clause.

Orsi was head of AgustaWestland at the time the contract was signed in 2010, and became CEO of Finmeccanica in 2011 when a separate corruption probe led to the ouster of his predecessor. Spagnolini replaced Orsi at AgustaWestland.

"I didn't expect anything different as I didn't commit the act," Orsi said in a statement released by his lawyer.

Orsi's lawyer Ennio Amodio expressed confidence that the false invoicing convictions would be thrown out, saying they were linked to non-existent transactions.

The helicopter sale probe, coupled with India's prosecution of two Italian marines for the deaths of a pair of Indian fishermen, have strained relations between the two countries.

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