Why Prime Minister Robert Fico was privately meeting his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolánek back in 2006?
And how did Fico’s aide Miroslav Výboh started handling the case of the Pandur armoured vehicles purchase for the Czech Republic at one of these meetings?
Czech lobbyist Marek Dalík – who was at that time Topolánek’s aide – recounted his complete version of what lay behind the Pandur international corruption scandal for the first time before the court, stated during his testimony on July 25. In the scandal connected to top politicians, he was the only one accused. Výboh was merely in the position of a witness.
The court has found Dalík guilty of attempted fraud, for the second time already. Repeatedly, it gave him a sentence of five years behind bars. The verdict is effective. This was the renewed trial after the Supreme Court ordered the case be re-opened due to a procedural flaw.
The beginning of the Pandur scandal
Originally, Dalík did not want to say much in the courtroom. He changed his mind after he went to prison and had time to think it over.
“I came to the conclusion that I have to say how it was – from the beginning to the end.”
He added that he was well aware of the fact that others involved in the scandal will never corroborate his words.
In his testimony, he claims that he first came in touch with the Pandur scandal after the 2006 election, when Topolánek became the new prime minister. Dalík was his unofficial aide.
The outgoing cabinet of the ČSSD party still managed to approve the Pandur purchase when in power. Defence Minister Karel Kühnl hesitated though, to sign the project worth a billion before leaving his position. According to Dalík, the reason was that after the change of cabinets, he wanted to continue working in public service. Thus, he did not want to enrage Topolánek, who did not conceal his dislike for the contract.
Then, it was Czech lobbyist and arms trader Pavel Musela who was in charge of the contract on mediating the deal. His middleman allegedly contacted Dalík to help with this.
Topolánek did not want to hear anything about that, according to Dalík who however, explained to him that if Kühnl signs the deal, the responsibility would stick to the previous cabinet. “It would be the so-called signature of someone else’s hand,” the aide explained. “That you pretend to be against something, and you keep your face thus.”
Topolánek ultimately agreed, according to Dalík, and Kühnl signed the deal on his last day in office.
“Of course, I expected to get something in return for the help,” Dalík concludes the introductory part. “But I was not rewarded in any way.”
Secret meetings with Fico
In summer 2006, there was also a general election in Slovakia, and Robert Fico became prime minister. Dalík describes the secret meetings which involved only him and Topolánek, as well as Fico with Výboh.
He had mentioned them already in the past. Now he specified why they were hiding: it was difficult for Fico, according to Dalík, to officially express favour to Topolánek.
“When he had some troubles in the Socialist International, (Czech) ex-PM Paroubek helped him a lot,” the lobbyist says. “Officially, they pretended to be great friends.”
There were several meetings, says Dalík. Mostly in southern Moravia, which was halfway between Prague and Bratislava. Still in 2014, even Fico admitted that.
“I can confirm that we met with friends,” he noted. Then, he called even Výboh a long-time friend of his.
They never talked about the purchase of the Pandurs, Fico claims. Dalík opposes, though, that it was Výboh who opened the issue at one of the meetings. The delivery to the Czech Republic became stuck at that time. Výboh allegedly offered to “put those relationships right”. He planned – Dalík opines – to get the contract for the Pandurs for Slovakia from the Austrian supplier. Thus, he wanted to show that “he can also push the things in the Czech Republic in the right direction”.
Further negotiations with the Steyr Austrian company Steyr took place with Výboh at the helm, according to Dalík.
With Výboh at the helm
Výboh testified as a witness in the trial with Dalík in September 2014. He confirmed that he had participated in the talks on the Pandurs. He claims that his company, Willing, represented the Israeli arms producers Rafael, which armed the transporters with a remotely controlled tower.
“It was natural for me to be there,” Výboh explains, refusing accusations of corruption.
Dalík says, though, that Výboh basically took over the role of original mediator in the deal, Pavel Musela.
In the recording, Dalík explains how Výboh gave the request for a kickback three times six million to the supplying company. He considers this a sum similar sum to the one Musela had in his contract. Dalík allegedly only confirmed this amount at the negotiations.
The first six millions should have been the remuneration for renewing the contract. Other payments should have been derived from the final sum, which was also a matter of negotiations. The kickback should have been six million euros for every ten billion Czech crowns – with the 20 billion being expected as the maximum.
“This was really meant to be a contract for Mr. Výboh, of which I should have received some unspecified part – I confess to that,” Dalík admits.
He refuses, however, that this would have been a bribe, even though a part of the amount should have been a kickback/commission according to him. Dalík claims that everything should have been stated in the contract. His firm was allegedly meant to secure PR services, lobbying, and media support. Ultimately, there was no contract, though.
“When I asked Mr. Výboh about what is included in the sum, he said those are dozens of millions for legal services, translation services, battle tests, that it is standard in this business – that this is simply how the things are,” Dalík explained.
However, representatives of the Steyr Austrian company registered Dalík’s and Výboh’s requests as demands for illegal payment, and refused to give the money.
Finally, Steyr agreed with the Czech Republic on the supply of the Pandurs, at a limited volume. The total sum of the contract was 14.4 billion Czech crowns. “It ultimately turned out well for the supplier and the cabinet as well,” Dalík stated in court.
State prosecutor Jan Kořán deemed new Dalík’s claims before the court pragmatic, intended to improve his position and image. Neither did the court take his testimony into consideration. It found Dalík guilty of attempted fraud for trying to wheedle money out the arms traders for something he was not able to secure.
- in 2006, the government of Jiří Paroubek (ČSSD) approved the purchase of armoured transport vehicles from Steyr,
- after the government of Mirek Topolánek (ODS) came to power in 2007, the Czech Republic wanted to terminate the contract,
- it was ultimately approved in 2009 but at a limited volume,
- it pledged to pay 14.4 billion Czech crowns for 107 Pandurs,
- this was preceded by negotiations in which Topolánek’s aide Dalík and Fico’s friend Výboh participated,
- in 2014, Dalík was charged with corruption.