It appears Minister of Defense Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrats, ODS) has at the last minute managed to avoid yet another scandal over military orders. Czech military intelligence planned to buy three Jackal armored cars reportedly for service in Afghanistan. Vondra cancelled the order on the grounds of the planned withdrawal of Czech troops from Afghanistan.
Martin Barták, widely presumed to have been charged by anti-corruption police for attempted fraud and bribery in the military’s Kč 2.6 billion order for Tatra all-terrain trucks in 2006, says the charges against him are flawed, trumped up and politicized — and key witnesses like ex-US Amb. William J Cabaniss can’t even recall basic details of the alleged bribery attempt.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has accepted the resignation of Martin Barták, the deputy finance minister under investigation for having allegedly solicited a bribe from former US ambassador William Cabaniss, who later joined Tatra trucks — which had won a Kč 2.7 billion supply contract from the Czech army when Barták was at the defense ministry. Barták has been on unpaid leave since last autumn.
A rumor has spread among Czech politicians and lobbyists that the investigation into former defense minister Martin Barták in connection with Czech army orders worth Kč 2.7 billion is to be transferred from the Ostrava region prosecution service to Prague on Friday. According to the rumors, the Prague prosecution service is to ensure that the investigation into the army purchases be dropped.
The Slovak military paid nearly 40 percent less for Iveco armored vehicles directly from the supplier than its Czech counterpart did in a 2009 deal signed by former defense minister Martin Barták, which was mediated by the companies Praga Export and Omnipol, the daily E15 reported Friday.
Tatra supervisory board head and ex-US Ambassador William J. Cabaniss sent letters in 2008 to then-Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and two Czech ministers complaining about an alleged attempt to solicit a bribe from Tatra, AmCham’s cheif executive Weston Stacey tells Czech Position in an exclusive interview. Topolánek calls the changes “slanderous” and part of a media campaign by Tatra’s “obviously corrupt management.”
Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra won’t say why he is recalling MoD Armaments Division head Jiří Staňek. But Vondra has pledged to purge the ministry of people close to Martin Barták, his predecessor. And Staňek did advocate for the Kč 3.6 billion purchase of armored vehicles from Iveco without a tender (a deal the European Commission is now examining for irregularites).
The Barták affair is putting PM Petr Nečas’ pledge to tackle corruption to the test, but Transparency International’s David Ondráčka says it will take systemic change to kill the ‘Octopus’ — the opaque procurement and acquisitions system within the Defense Ministry that lines the pockets of corrupt politicians and shady middlemen. And Defense Minister ‘Saša’ Vondra’s ‘White Paper’ aims to do just that.
In February 2008, the then-Deputy Minister of Defense Martin Barták allegedly asked for a bribe. Since he is currently the deputy Finance Minister charged with investigating certain financial corruption cases, Barták should be sidelined until his own case is resolved.
Lost in translation — that’s how former Czech ambassador to the United States Petr Kolář explains allegations that back in February 2008 Deputy FM Martin Barták offered a bribe to Tatra supervisory board head William J. Cabannis, himself a former US ambassador to Prague .