David Cameron backs Westland amid bribery claims

David Cameron: "AgustaWestland is a brilliant company"

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Prime Minister David Cameron has backed the UK helicopter firm AgustaWestland despite it being implicated in a bribery probe in India.

He said the issue of whether bribes were paid to win a contract was a matter for India and Westland's owner, the Italian company Finmeccanica.

Mr Cameron, on a trade visit to India, said Westland was an "excellent company".

India has suspended payments on the £485m deal.

The claims, which are denied, concern the supply of helicopters built at Westland's factory at Yeovil, in Somerset.

Giuseppe Orsi, the chairman and chief executive of Finmeccanica, was arrested last week, along with Bruno Spagnolini, the chief executive of AgustaWestland, on corruption and tax fraud charges.

'Brilliant helicopters'

Speaking in Mumbai, Mr Cameron told the BBC: "This is really a question between the Italian authorities - because it is Finmeccanica, an Italian company, which owns AgustaWestland - and the Indian authorities.

"What I am saying to people here is that AgustaWestland is an excellent company, with highly skilled workers who make brilliant helicopters.

"Britain has, in our anti-bribery laws, some of the toughest laws in the world, so people know if they do business with British companies, that they have those protections."

He added that it was for the UK's Serious Fraud Office itself to decide whether to look into the claims. "That is a matter for them. We have totally independent investigating and prosecuting authorities in the UK, and they are at liberty to act or not, and are not director by ministers."

He added: "I'm not embarrassed that Britain has a very good defence industry. It is a perfectly legitimate business to sell to other countries that want to maintain their defences."

Last week, India's defence ministry said it was freezing payments to Finmeccanica while the Central Bureau of Investigation carried out its investigation.

AgustaWestland has said it is "confident that the full compliance with the relevant laws" were upheld.

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