Former construction ministers from the Slovak National Party (SNS), Marian Janušek and Igor Štefanov, who are being tried for the infamous case of the bulletin-board tender may get longer sentences. One of the three other defendants in the case, Radoslav Behúl, who was a ministry clerk at the time of the scandal – around 2007 – said on March 22 at a court session that he wanted to plead guilty to the flaws made in the tender which was worth almost €120 million. In the upcoming days, he should begin working with the prosecutor on a plea bargain.
„I want to testify,” Behúl said, as quoted by the website of the Sme daily. “I will testify to the facts as they happened, I will not conceal anyhting,” added the man who led the department in implementing programmes of regional development at the ministry at that time.
Behúl faces similar sentences to the three other suspects (apart from Janušek) – seven to 12 years in prison. If he pleads guilty, he can get his sentence reduced by one third of the minimum; in his case four-and-a-half years or more. After the March 22 court session he did not want to reveal whether he plans to give evidence regarding the failings of the two ex-ministers.
Ex-ministers refuse guilt
Neither Janušek, nor Štefanov wanted to comment on the guilty plea of their former subordinate. However, they earlier both refused any similar plea bargain .
„No way,” was the only reaction of Janušek – according to Sme – who faces the strictest sentence, 10 to 20 years. Štefanov could get seven to 12 years.
The prosecutor did not want to speculate what the guilty plea could mean for the other defendants, as this will depend on their testimonies. If the plea bargain is successfully concluded, Behúl could change from a defendant into a witness in the next sessions.
His request for a plea bargain was the reason why the session was adjourned until end of April. Originally, first testimonies were expected on March 22 but the surprising turn of the case stopped them.
The case goes back to 2007 and is described as one of the biggest scandals of the first government of Robert Fico (2006-2010). It involved the announcement of a €120 million competition for supplying the then Construction Ministry with various legal and advertising services, co-financed by EU funds. The call for applicants was placed only on a bulletin board in a corridor at the ministry, then under the remit of SNS.
The tender was won by the only bidder, a consortium of companies including Zamedia and Avocat, both businesses with links to the then-SNS party leader Ján Slota.
The scandal led to the sacking of both Janušek and his successor, Štefanov.
Currently, Janušek is a city councilor in Žilina and also a member of the supervisory board of the road company Žilinské Komunikácie, in which the self-same government is one of the shareholders. Apart from this, he is an entrepreneur.
Štefanov has withdrawn from public life. Two other defendants are former ministry employees.
22. Mar 2017 at 23:02 | Compiled by Spectator staff