Yeovil MP David Laws backs AgustaWestland over Indian helicopter 'corruption' probe
YEOVIL MP David Laws says he backs AgustaWestland "100 per cent" over ongoing corruption investigations in Italy and India.
Allegations of bribery facing the Anglo-Italian firm concern a £500 million defence deal with the Indian government for 12 AW101 helicopters, known as the Merlin in the British military.
The helicopters are being assembled at the firm's Lysander Road plant in Yeovil.
There are fears hundreds of jobs could be put at risk if the contract is cancelled.
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Mr Laws said: "This has obviously been a difficult week for AgustaWestland, but the company and its staff continue to have my 100 per cent support.
"AgustaWestland is one of the best defence manufacturers in Britain, and its employees produce fantastic helicopters and make an absolutely massive contribution to the UK economy.
"I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has given such strong support to the company during his visit this week to India.
"I have been closely in contact with the company over the last week, and I will do anything I can to help.
"AgustaWestland has a strong reputation not only for its helicopters but for the way it does business.
"Any serious allegations made will always be fully and properly investigated, but in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing I hope that this contract will continue.
"No one can doubt that these helicopters are of world-beating design and quality. They are up to all the tasks which will be required of them.
"I know that this contract is also important for securing work in Yeovil, and employees can know that they have strong support from the UK Government."
The spat has cast a shadow over Prime Minister David Cameron's three-day trade mission to India this week.
Speaking in India, the PM voiced his support for the firm's 3,000-strong Yeovil workforce.
Giuseppe Orsi, the chairman and chief executive of AgustaWestland's parent company Finmeccanica, was arrested last week, along with Bruno Spagnolini, the chief executive of AgustaWestland, on corruption and tax fraud charges.
Indian authorities have suspended payments to the company as it launches its own investigations.