Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Noone to be prosecuted over Gripen corruption, police say

10 October 2013

Prague, Oct 9 (CTK) - No one will be charged with corruption accompanying the acquisition of JAS-39 Gripen fighters for the Czech military and the anti-corruption police shelved the case again after more than three years, their spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej told CTK yesterday.

The police found no suspicion of a crime in the case.

The High State Attorney's Office in Prague has received the police's decision and will examine it now, Marek Bodlak, head of the attorney office's section of serious economic and financial crime, told CTK.

The anti-corruption police were investigating the case on suspicion of bribery and machinations accompanying public tenders and auction.

Detectives have been dealing with the case for the third time since 2002 but they have always shelved the case.

Last time the investigation was reopened in May 2011 on the basis of a check by the Supreme State Attorney's Office, Ibehej added.

Information on the alleged corruption connected with the planned purchase of Jas-39 Gripen fighters surfaced in the Swedish television's reports in February 2007.

The British police prosecuted Austrian businessman Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, who worked in the Czech Republic as an adviser to British-Swedish BAE Systems offering the Gripens, on suspicion of corruption. However, BAE Systems agreed with the U.S. and British authorities on a fine in exchange for halting the investigation.

The Czech military started to consider replacing its outdated Russian-made MiG-21 fighters with modern aircraft in the second half of the 1990s.

In 2001 the Czech Defence Ministry launched a tender from which all bidders gradually withdrew, except for BAE-Systems offering Jas-39 Gripen fighters.

The then Social Democrat (CSSD) cabinet of Milos Zeman approved the contract on the purchase of 24 Gripens for over 60 billion crowns in April 2002, but parliament did not nod to it. The plan to buy Gripens was definitively scrapped by the next cabinet.

In 2004, the Czech Republic and Sweden signed a contract on the lease of 14 Gripens for 19.6 billion crowns.

Now the Czech government is negotiating with Swedes about the conditions of the lease extension but no agreement has been reached yet.

The Czech police looked into the alleged corruption in connection with the intended purchase and lease of the Gripen fighters repeatedly.

They first concluded in December 2002 that a crime had been committed, but had not found the culprit. The investigation was reopened in February 2007 but shelved at the end of 2009 without any accusations.

The police in Sweden, the United States and Austria also investigated the corruption suspicion in the Gripen case.

($1=18.797 crowns)

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