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Lobbyist Dalík given five years in prison for corruption

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Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) – Czech lobbyist Marek Dalik was sentenced to five years in prison and a five-million-crown penalty for corruption accompanying the purchase of the Pandur armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for the Czech military, the Prague Municipal Court ruled on Tuesday.

If Dalik did not pay the fine, he would spend another two years in prison.

The verdict can be appealed.

Dalik pleads not guilty. His defence counsel appealed the verdict on the spot, and consequently the High Court will deal with the case.

The police investigated Dalik, adviser to former prime minister Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS), based on the testimony of Stephan Szcuecs, former employee of the Austrian Steyr firm, who said Dalik demanded 18 million euros for continuation of the purchase of Pandurs from Steyr.

According to the file, Dalik asked for the bribe at an informal meeting in a Prague restaurant in November 2007.

Dalik pretended having close ties with representatives of the Czech government and being able to influence their decision-making, which was not true, and the order alone, the state attorney said.

Dalik eventually did not get any money.

The fundamental piece of evidence was an e-mail that the Austrian police had seized in Steyr. It proves that the meeting in a Prague restaurant was initiated by the Czech side, and it also included information about the participants in it, court panel chairwoman Veronika Ceplova said.

The e-mail indicates that the Steyr representatives were to hear Czech proposals at the meeting, she said.

The testimonies of the witnesses, foreign arms makers who attended the meeting, also supported the information from the document, she added.

It is clear from the evidence that a bribe was demanded at the meeting and that Dalik asked for it by someone else’s order, the court concluded, but it did not specify who was behind it.

The circle of suspects is very narrow, it said.

Dalik was originally charged with attempted fraud for which he faced up to ten years in prison.

However, the court on Tuesday re-qualified the crime as assisting in bribe taking for which he faced a lower maximum sentence level.

State attorney Jan Koran took some time for consideration.

He originally proposed seven years in prison and a penalty of 22 million crowns for Dalik.

Defence lawyer Tomas Sokol demanded that Dalik be acquitted. He criticised that his client was found guilty without being uncovered for whom he had demanded the bribe.

The purchase of Pandurs costing 20.8 billion crowns was approved by the left-wing government of Jiri Paroubek (Social Democrats, CSSD) in 2006. At the end of 2007, Topolanek’s government said Steyr had violated the conditions of the purchase and it withdrew from it. In 2008 Topolanek’s government put up a new tender, within which the Czech army bought 107 Pandurs for 14.4 billion crowns in 2009.

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