Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Barták charged with corruption in Tatra case

ČTK |
1 February 2013

Ostrava, North Moravia, Jan 31 (CTK) - Former Czech defence minister Martin Bartak and arms dealer Michal Smrz have been charged within the case of a dubious purchase of Tatra lorries for the Czech military, the supervising state attorney Dusan Taborsky told CTK today.

Bartak is charged with corruption, Smrz with attempted fraud.

The prosecution filed the corruption charges with the Ostrava Regional Court today.

Taborsky said Bartak and Smrz demanded bribes from Tatra top managers in exchange for removing certain obstacles faced by Tatra in a delivery of vehicles for the military.

Bartak demanded five million dollars. Smrz, owner of MPI Group armament firm, demanded 100 million crowns at first, but he was unable to meet his promises and later he lowered his demand to 20 million crowns.

Srmz was unable to influence the military procurement for vehicles, Taborsky said.

Bartak and Smrz knew each other and they even spent a holiday together, but they will not be charged as accomplices.

It has not been proved that they coordinated their action, Taborsky said.

The police accused the two suspects in November 2011.

According to the prosecution, Smrz demanded a bribe 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 charged with bribe taking. Bartak used his position and tried to influence the Tatra deal, the prosecution says.

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=18.949 crowns)

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