Corruption Watch report: the Anglo-Italian Job

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An AW159 Wildcat helicopter
An AW159 Wildcat helicopter

A new report from Corruption Watch UK covers a number of corruption scandals involving the Italian arms company Leonardo. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) calculated that the company was the 9th largest defence company by sales in the world in 2015, and a good portion of that success is down to the company’s helicopter division, comprised, until the 1st of January 2016, of the Italian-English multinational company, AgustaWestland (now called Leonard Helicopters).

Leonard Helicopters retains substantial production facilities in the UK at its historic Yeovil site, but the company has been dogged by a number of corruption scandals that have led to criminal and civil cases across multiple jurisdictions including Italy, South Korea, India and Panama.

Over the last three years, Corruption Watch has investigated and tracked these corruption scandals. Corruption Watch’s research shows that the company’s UK subsidiary, or its agents, have been implicated in wrongdoing in a number of cases, with participants drawn from the highest echelons of the company’s management. The most notable of these participants is the Right Honourable Geoff Hoon, the former British Defence Secretary under Tony Blair and, from 2011 until 2016, AgustaWestland’s Manager of International Business based in the UK. Hoon denies the allegations made in the report.

Court documents, accessed by Corruption Watch UK in South Korea, show that Hoon was directing the activities of a lobbyist convicted in South Korea in 2016 for ‘illegal intermediation’ – paid lobbying. The lobbyist had been used by AgustaWestland to secure the sale of Wildcat helicopters to the South Korean military and was paid directly in pounds.

This report reveals the inner workings of three of these corruption cases including:

1. The sale of Wildcat helicopters to the South Korean military. AgustaWestland made payments to individuals with links to the South Korean military establishment to secure the deal. These included payments to the lobbyist overseen by Geoff Hoon.

2. The highly controversial sale of VVIP helicopters to India. Over €60m was paid to agents and middlemen on the deal, a substantial portion of which was overseen by AgustaWestland’s UK headquarters, paid to a UK company and paid from UK bank accounts. AgustaWestland furthermore paid one of these agents in relation to other procurements in India. India’s authorities alleged that no legitimate work was performed on those additional contracts, which the agent denies.

3. The sale of surveillance and other equipment to the government of Panama. Allegations of kickbacks to the former Panamanian President, facilitated by an Italian businessman with close links to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, have marred the deal. Panama cancelled the deal in a negotiated agreement with Leonardo that ended legal proceedings in the country.

The full report from Corruption Watch can be found here: https://www.cw-uk.org/angloitalianjob

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