Czech lobbyist charged over armored personnel carrier fraud
The Czech High State Attorney’s Office (VSZ) charged one of the country’s best-known lobbyists, Marek D., with attempted fraud over the purchase of Pandur armored personnel carriers (APC) for the military, Czech newswire Ceskenoviny reported May 15.
“I don’t think there’s any surprise that Marek D. is under investigation or accused,” said Vladimira Dvorakova, a political analyst, as quoted by the Czech Radio. “Everybody always spoke about his influence and his behavior. What is surprising is that there is apparently enough evidence to continue the investigation. Corruption cases are usually very difficult to prove, to get witnesses, to get proof that something like that really happened. That is a surprising development.”
Marek D. was detained in Prague in early October 2012 based on a testimony of a former Steyr’s employee who said that D. demanded EUR 18 mln (approx. CZK 500 mln) for continued purchase of Pandurs.
Eventually, Marek D. did not get any money, but he supposedly promised tp help in negotiations related to the purchasing agreement, while, in fact, he did not have any real influence.
During Mirek Topolanek’s government, Marek D. was widely regarded as a key player and was often referred to as a “grey eminence” that was never afraid to act in the prime minister’s name. The Czech opposition argues that the case should be seen as proof of widespread corruption in Topolanek’s government.
“It is clear and there is evidence now that the Topolanek era was one of rising corruption,” said current Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, as cited by Czech Radio.
Czech anti-corruption police and judiciary worked on the case for almost three years together with an international team.
The purchase of the Pandurs is another in a series of cases of allegedly dubious orders for the Czech military that are being investigated. Corruption and bribery charges against the Czech former Minister of Defense Martin Bartak were dismissed, and the corruption case over the purchase of Gripen aircraft fighters was dropped.
Image courtesy of Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces of the Czech Republic