Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Former defence minister to be charged with corruption

17 January 2013

Ostrava, North Moravia, Jan 16 (CTK) - Dusan Taborsky, the attorney supervising the investigation of the dubious purchase of Tatra lorries for the Czech army, yesterday said he will file corruption charges against former defence minister Martin Bartak and MPI Group armament firm's owner Michal Smrz later in January.

The anti-corruption police have closed the investigation of the case and proposed that corruption charges be filed against the two, police spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej told CTK.

The police accused the two suspects in November 2011. Smrz is suspected of attempted fraud.

According to the police, he demanded five million dollars from the Tatra company's senior official under the false pretext of using his influence to remove obstacles threatening to thwart Tatra's prospect as lorry supplier to the state.

Bartak, unaffiliated deputy defence minister in 2006-2009 and defence minister in 2009-2010, has been accused of bribe taking.

The police say Bartak used his position and tried to influence the Tatra deal. He, too, demanded five million dollars from Tatra in exchange for removing certain obstacles faced by Tatra.

The investigation showed that Smrz and Bartak demanded bribes for making certain arrangements. "However, the former could not influence the order and he made false promises. That is why he has been accused of attempted fraud," Ostrava regional state attorney Zlatuse Andelova said earlier.

The latter suspect has been also prosecuted for bribe taking because he could influence the order, she said, referring to Bartak.

The police dealt with the case since November 2010 when Tatra supervisory board head William Cabaniss, former U.S. ambassador to Prague, told the daily Mlada fronta Dnes that in February 2008 Bartak asked him for a bribe worth millions of dollars.

The information was confirmed by Cabaniss's colleague Duncan Sellars, who was present at his meeting with Bartak.

Bartak has dismissed the accusations as fabricated.

In connection with the Tatra case, the police have also accused Ronald Adams, head of the Tatra's Czech subsidiary, of bribery.

Adams is suspected of offering a bribe to Bartak, then deputy defence minister, for having further military orders placed with Tatra.

Adams is a witness in Bartak's corruption case.

Sellars, a member of Tatra's board of directors, then said Tatra considers the prosecution of Adams unfounded and the Czech police's steps extraordinarily suspicious.

Within a contract approved by the Czech government, Tatra supplied 588 Tatra lorries in seven variants worth 2.7 billion crowns as from March 2008.

Bartak's name has been also mentioned in connection with other controversial military purchases such as that of the Pandur APCs from the Austrian company Steyr and the CASA transport planes from the Spanish consortium EADS, both mediated by Czech firms in accordance with the then valid legislation.

($1=19.207 crowns)

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