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US ambassador planned 'small chat' with Jahnátek

US AMBASSADOR Rodolphe M. Vallee used his speech at a conference on freedom of the press in Bratislava on April 25 to refute recent comments made by Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek regarding alleged exceptions for corrupt practices in American legislation.

US AMBASSADOR Rodolphe M. Vallee used his speech at a conference on freedom of the press in Bratislava on April 25 to refute recent comments made by Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek regarding alleged exceptions for corrupt practices in American legislation.

The minister had made the comments during a non-confidence motion in parliament on April 13. "American law and the OECD Convention [on Bribery] address the issue of legal forms of corruption," he said.

Vallee said that part of his job is to explain US anti-corruption law "even to Slovak government officials", and added that US law does not allow for bribes "to support US exporters of arms".

The latter comment was an apparent reference to an interview that Jahnátek gave last month for Trend magazine, in which he said that state companies should be able to record bribes officially in their books, such as in order to secure arms contracts in the Third World.

Vallee said that Jahnátek's statements had been "unfortunate".

"I would certainly like to discuss with Minister Jahnátek what [US anti-corruption law] actually says," he said. "It clearly prohibits the payment of bribes to secure business. That topic - the use of money to secure business - was what initially started all of this. The initial discussion was not about these small payments [to expedite the performance of routine government actions]."

The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, like the OECD anti-bribery convention, allows for payments "to facilitate or expedite the performance of a routine government action".

Although Jahnátek had not found time to meet with the ambassador since his late-March Trend interview, Vallee said he believed that the minister had "a great interest in working with us to create an atmosphere that is consistent with Slovakia's obligations within the OECD bribery convention.

"I'll be seeing him tonight at an event and may use that opportunity to have a small chat with him," he added.


- Tom Nicholson

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