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Marines, helicopter deal separate issues: Italian diplomat

Published: 13th November 2013 06:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th November 2013 06:47 PM   |  A+A-

The case of the two Italian marines charged with murder in India and a murky multi-million euro helicopter deal with the Indian government must be treated as separate issues, a senior Italian diplomat said Wednesday.

“We believe the cases must be kept separate and on the Indian side there is also the wish to do so," said Staffan De Mistura, the government's envoy to India in the case of Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone.

Latorre and Girone have been detained in New Delhi awaiting trial for the murder of two Indian fishermen who they allegedly shot dead off the coast of India's southern Kerala state in February last year.

The marines, who were guarding an Italy-flagged oil tanker, claim they believed the fishermen were pirates. Italy alleges the incident took place in international waters and that India does not have jurisdiction in the case.

The case sparked a major diplomatic row between India and Italy earlier this year.

Bilateral relations had already been strained by a 2010 deal in which two executives from Italy's state-controlled defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica allegedly paid Indian officials 51 million euros in bribes to win a 2010 contract to supply 12 helicopters to the Indian government.

Finmeccanica's former chief executive Giuseppe Orsi and CEO of Finmeccanica's helicopter division AgustaWestland Bruno Spagnoli went on trial in June for corruption and fraud over the 560 million-euro chopper deal with India. 

India, which has opened its own probe into the graft allegations, froze delivery of the remaining nine AW1010 helicopters after Orsi's arrest in February.

Both Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland deny wrongdoing. 

But industry analysts say the affair has rocked Finmeccanica, tarnished its international image and risks worsening its relationship with the Indian government, an important customer.

Also read:

Italian marines to be quizzed via video chat

Marines case: NIA team may visit Italy to question four witnesses

Chopper scam: CBI to send judicial request to Italy 

Chopper deal: CBI gets call information 



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