Gripen fighter corruption case dismissed in Prague
No charges will be made over alleged corruption and bribery in the purchase contract of Gripen airplane fighters for the Czech military, said Marek Bodlak, head of the serious economic and financial crime department at the Prague High State Attorney’s Office (VSZ), reported Ceskenoviny newswire May 14.
“No facts justifying the launch of any criminal proceedings against a particular person have been found,” said Bodlak, as cited by the newswire.
Czech anti-corruption police dealt with the case three times from 2002, and each time the case was shelved. The first investigation concluded in December 2002 with no perpetrator found. A subsequent investigation, opened in February 2007, was dropped in 2009, as the police found no evidence of any crime committed in relation to the Gripens’ purchase contract.
The latest investigation, which began in May 2010, was based on an audit of the Supreme State Attorney’s Office (NSZ). Information about possible corruption and bribery in the purchase of Jas-39 Gripen fighters by the Czech Republic was also published by Swedish television.
Austrian businessman Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, an advisor to BAE Systems in the Czech Republic in 1990s, was said to have been entangled in the corruption scandal. Mensdorff-Pouilly allegedly tried to contact the representatives of the Czech government who were responsible for the purchase contract of the Gripen fighters. Although several bidders originally participated in the tender for purchase of the fighters, the British-Swedish consortium BAE-Systems was ultimately the only bidder.
In April 2002, the CZK 60.2 bln contract was approved by then government of Milos Zeman, but Parliament did not approve the proposal. Following the 2002 summer floods, the new Czech government, headed by Vladimir Spidla, withdrew from the purchase contract as the country had to deal with the aftermath of the flood.
Finally, in July 2003 Spidla’s government decided to lease 14 Gripens from Sweden for about CZK 20 bln. The contract was signed in 2004 and the Gripens flew to Czech Republic in 2005 to replace the Russian-made MiG-21s.
The current leasing agreement expires in 2015. Earlier this year, the current Czech government, headed by Bohuslav Sobotka, approved an extension of the lease until 2027 with a two-year option. The lease of Gripen fighters will cost the country CZK 1.7 bln annually.
Photo courtesy of Petr Kadlec