Prague - Former Czech PM Mirek Topolanek stood up for his former adviser, lobbyist Marek Dalik, who is suspected of asking for a 0.5-billion-crown bribe in negotiations on the purchase of the Pandur armoured carriers (APCs), in court today.
V Praze pokračoval 21. srpna soud s lobbistou Markem Dalíkem (v pozadí vlevo), který podle obžaloby požadoval téměř půlmiliardový úplatek při vyjednávání o nákupu obrněných transportérů Pandur. K soudu přišel vypovídat i bývalý premiér Mirek Topolánek (uprostřed). ČTK Vondrouš Roman
Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) said no fraud had been and could have been committed in this case.
Dalik, who pleads innocent, faces up to ten years in prison for an attempted fraud if found guilty.
Topolanek was carefully prepared for the court proceedings and he gave a long testimony.
First, he described the development of the most significant military orders since 2002, including the APCs, for an hour. He said that the contract had been gradually prepared by the Social Democrat (CSSD) governments headed by Vladimir Spidla, Stanislav Gross and Jiri Paroubek.
The pressure was exerted on the ruling politicians then to make decision in favour of the Austrian armament firm Steyr producing Pandurs, Topolanek said.
The idea to buy new APCs for the military was tabled by Spidla's government in 2003. It approved the purchase of 240 new carriers and two years later, Gross´s government launched a tender in which seven firms took part. Finnish Patria and Steyr advanced to the tender's final.
In 2006, Paroubek´s government decided to buy the APCs from Steyr for 23.6 billion crowns and the then defence minister signed the treaty with Steyr in June 2006.
One year later, Topolanek's government withdrew from the Steyr contract. His second government nodded to the purchase of only 107 of them for 14.4 billion crowns in 2008.
Topolanek said Dalik had become a mere target in a behind- the-scenes game since he was considered his friend.
"There is no one who could have committed a fraud or who would like to investigate the case," Topolanek said.
The police opened the case based on the testimony of a former Steyr employee, Stephan Szuecs, who said in March 2011 Dalik had asked 18 million euros (an equivalent of some half a billion crowns) if the purchase of the Pandurs continued.
Court panel chairwoman Veronika Ceplova pointed out at the beginning of today´s trial that Dalik´s charges can be re-qualified to bribery or indirect bribery for which he would face up to 12 or four years in prison, respectively.
The court announced that the trial would continue on September 4 with the testimonies of Slovak lobbyist Miroslav Vyboh and former defence minister Alexandr Vondra (ODS).
The testimonies of other witnesses from abroad should be read in court, or they might be questioned via a video-conference.
This case is one in a row of dubious military orders that the Czech police and judiciary are looking into.
This year, a court acquitted former defence minister Martin Bartak and lobbyist and arms dealer Michal Smrz in the case of alleged corruption related to the purchase of Tatra lorries for the Czech military. The verdict did not take effect because the state attorney appealed it.
On the contrary, the case of suspected bribery accompanying the acquisition of the Jas-39 Gripen fighters was not brought to court eventually.