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KATRIM STELLA CASE SETTLED OUT OF COURT AFTER ALMOST A DECADE

Ministry pays off controversial arms trader

FOLLOWING a court case with the Slovak government lasting almost a decade, the Defense Ministry has paid Sk200 million as part of an out-of-court settlement in the case of the Katrim Stella arms trading firm, the Nový Čas daily reported on February 22.

FOLLOWING a court case with the Slovak government lasting almost a decade, the Defense Ministry has paid Sk200 million as part of an out-of-court settlement in the case of the Katrim Stella arms trading firm, the Nový Čas daily reported on February 22.

According to information obtained by The Slovak Spectator, the money was actually paid at the end of 2006.

Katrim Stella won a name for itself under the 1994-1998 Vladimír Mečiar government for securing MiG fighters for Slovakia as part of a debt settlement scheme with the Russian government. The jets were later found to be not only used but barely serviceable, and the Dzurinda government that came to power in 1998 declared the contracts null and void.

The case of the Sk135 million in disputed commissions for securing the fighters - which later grew to Sk350 million with penalties and interest - is still before the courts. The Supreme Court is waiting for the Attorney General's Office to return the case file before it can deliver a verdict.

Former Defense Minister Martin Fedor (2006) told the SITA news agency that he was thinking of forming an MPs' fact-finding team to discover why the money had been paid in the Katrim Stella case.

"Until now, defense ministers who have held office since this case began have refused to pay out this disputed provision to this controversial firm," Fedor said, adding that the size of the settlement and the secrecy with which it was arranged gave him cause for doubt.

After Katrim Stella entered bankruptcy, its receivable against the Slovak government was sold to a firm registered in Delaware called the United Business Service Corporation.

According to information obtained by The Slovak Spectator, the firm has no capital and has no office at the address it lists.

One of the owners of Katrim Stella was the Russian firm Katrim TOO, which according to the Korzár daily had close ties to the MAPO MiG association of Russian aircraft manufacturers.

One of the Russian citizens on the supervisory board of Katrim Stella, Gennadij Kosin, was a high-ranking Red Army officer, according to the Národná Obroda daily, and later became a member of the Russian Army General Staff for technological development.

The other Russian on Katrim Stella's board was Arkadij Papyrin. According to historian John Barron, in his book KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, a certain Arkadij Sergeyevich Papyrin was a prominent member of the KGB from 1970 to 1989, and had been a KGB resident in Holland.

A Genadij Kosin and a Arkadij Sergeyevich Papyrin were also co-owners of a Slovak arms trader named Willing International, in liquidation since 2005, where Miroslav Výboh, a prominent arms exec from central Slovakia, served as the managing director.

Výboh is currently part of the official Slovak delegation visiting Libya with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. He is representing the Willing firm.

The Nový Čas daily described Výboh as the "eminence grise" of the ruling Smer party.

"I wish it were so," Výboh responded. He said he had gone to Libya to "develop business in exports of replacement parts [for Libyan military equipment]."

Výboh is vice-president of the Slovak Defense Industry Association.

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