A FRIEND of Prime Minister Robert Fico allegedly asked the Austrian company Steyr for a bribe. The allegation was voiced again at court, during a hearing in the Pandur case, the biggest corruption case the Czech courts are currently dealing with.
Miroslav Výboh, a known lobbyist whom Fico admitted to be his friend, was mentioned at the Prague court on November 10, when former representative of the Steyr company, Lutz Kampmann, testified in the case. The defendant in the case is Marek Dalík, a Czech lobbyist and advisor to former Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek. Dalík’s charges concern his alleged request for a bribe from Steyr.
Kampmann, who was Steyr’s manager from 2006-2012, and who was assigned to deal with the sale of the Pandur armed vehicles to the Czech Republic in December 2006, did not attend the meeting where Dalík allegedly asked for bribes worth altogether €18 million.
Kampmann, however, told the court that Výboh invited him to a meeting in December 2007 in Brno, where he asked for three bribes, €6 million each. According to him, Výboh said that “the Czech side” (meaning then deputy transport minister Martin Barták, Topolánek and Dalík) asked him to negotiate about the possible reduction of the agreement, the iDnes.cz Czech news portal reported.
Kampmann also described another meeting, when Steyr representatives visited the US embassy in Prague. According to him, they described the circumstances of why the contract was cancelled in the end. The US ambassador then directly asked Steyr managers whether they received any unethical offer during the negotiations, at which point they mentioned Výboh’s offer, iDnes.cz wrote.
The Pandur case
Slovak media first reported on the Pandur case in July 2014, when the name of PM Fico was mentioned in connection with the case.
The case involves the purchase of Pandur armoured vehicles by the second government of Topolánek, dating back to 2007. The Czech police arrested Výboh in connection with the case in October 2012. The court, however, released him from custody.
“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.
In his testimony before the court in July, Dalík stated that Výboh, whom the Slovak media called Fico’s right-hand man, brought up the issue of the Pandurs at a secret meeting of the two prime ministers and two lobbyists. Dalík admitted that such meetings took place repeatedly, always confidentially and always attended by Topolánek with Dalík and Fico with Výboh. 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.
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.
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. Originally, he had denied the friendly relations with Výboh. Výboh’s name has, however, 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.
Fico also said he did not see a problem with the fact that he took the businessman along to an unofficial meeting with former Czech PM Topolánek. Fico in his reaction 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.
17. Nov 2014 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani