THE NAME of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has appeared in connection with a corruption case that a Prague court is currently dealing with, the Sme daily reported in its July 2 issue.
The case involves the purchase of Pandur armoured vehicles by the second government of former Czech PM Mirek Topolánek. Lobbyist Marek Dalík, whom the Czech media labelled Topolánek’s cashier, is charged with allegedly asking for an €18-million bribe from representatives of Austrian company Steyer, which was contracted to provide the armoured vehicles. This dates back to 2007.
In his testimony before the court, Dalík stated that Miroslav Výboh, whom the Slovak media called Fico’s right-hand man, brought up the issue of the Pandurs at a secret meeting of the four men.
Dalík admitted that such meetings took place repeatedly, always confidentially and always attended by Topolánek with Dalík and Fico with Výboh, Sme reported. He however did not specify what the men discussed during those meetings.
When the judge demanded that Dalík explain why each prime minister had a businessman with him at these meetings, Dalík said it was common practice, Sme wrote.
In his response, Fico called Výboh his personal friend: “Mr Výboh is my friend and I will not pretend that he isn’t”, according to Sme. Fico does not see a problem with the fact that he took the businessman along to an unofficial meeting with former Czech PM Topolánek.
Fico, however, denied discussing Pandurs, arguing that the meeting was of a personal nature: “If you are interested, we went with Mr Topolánek to the AC/DC concert in Prague,” Fico said, as quoted by Sme.
Výboh’s name has appeared in Slovak media in connection with Fico in the past. He has been involved in arms trading through the Willing company, which he once headed. He was a member of Fico’s delegation to Libya, where they also met with Muammar Gaddafi. Currently, he is acting as the general consul to Monaco.
The Czech police arrested Výboh in connection with the corruption case, which became known as the Pandur case, in October 2012. The court, however, released him from custody.
The court proceeding in the Pandur case started only on July 1, 2014, with the hearing of Dalík.
The Czech daily MF Dnes wrote that both Dalík and Výboh are subject to investigation in Austria, where the case has not yet been closed.
The Austrian connection is the Steyer company, whom Dalík allegedly asked for the €18-million bribe.
“Mr Dalík identified himself as someone from the office of the prime minister,” the company’s manager, Viktor Jackovich, said in his statement. “He said: If you want the programme to continue, you must do six-times-three, €18 million.”
This was after the Czech government considered cancelling the deal with Steyer in 2007.
Smer trusts its leader
The Sme addressed a number of Smer MPs to comment on the appearance of Fico’s name together with that of Výboh in this major corruption case.
Former defence minister and current MP Jaroslav Baška said that he never met Výboh while serving at the ministry. He refused to comment on Fico’s contacts with the businessman.
Another Smer MP, Anton Martvoň, said he did not believe Dalík’s allegations to be trustworthy.
“Given the fact that a man who has been charged with something said that, I rather consider it a purpose-driven defence,” Martvoň told Sme.
MP Mojmír Mamojka too said he only heard about Výboh in the media and added there is no need to explain whom the prime minister meets with.
“It is his intimate, personal matter,” Mamojka told Sme.
7. Jul 2014 at 0:00 | Compiled by Michaela Terenzani with press reports