The Slovenia Times

Patria Trial in Vienna Closes with One Guilty Verdict


Wolfgang Riedl, a Patria middleman for the EUR 278m deal with Slovenia, was found guilty of bribery, attempted fraud and tax evasion for his role in channelling hundreds of thousands of euros in kickbacks to Slovenia.

He was sentenced to three years in prison and will have to serve a minimum of one year and pay a EUR 850,000 fine, Austrian press agency APA reported.

Three co-defendants accused of industrial espionage for Patria were acquitted, while the fifth co-defendant, the Austro-Slovenian businessmen Walter Wolf, was absent due to health reasons and was not handed a verdict.

However, APA points out that Riedl was acquitted of colluding with Wolf to commit a crime, which, if upheld, would mean that Wolf would be acquitted as well.

Wolf is one of five defendants in the Patria trial in Slovenia, along with several other alleged middlemen and former PM Janez Janša. His acquittal could affect court proceedings in Slovenia.

Nevertheless, judge Marion Zöllner said there was no doubt that Slovenian politicians had been bribed in order to rig the 2006 public tender for the purchase of armoured personnel carriers in favour of Patria.

She said there was sufficient evidence to prove that Riedl had organised bribes in Slovenia for people with power to decide on the awarding of the contract.

The judge thus sided with the prosecution's claim that Riedl had brought EUR 900,000 to Slovenia in a suitcase and handed it to Jože Zagožen, one of the defendants in Slovenia, who then channelled it on to Janša's Democrats (SDS), referred to in seized correspondence as "the party".

The Vienna trial was the first procedure related to the controversial defence deal to draw to a close. The trial in Slovenia is ongoing and a trial in Finland against former Patria executives is yet to begin.

Zagožen's lawyer Boris Marčič told the STA the ruling would have no direct bearing on the trial in Slovenia, as both courts are working with distinct sets of evidence.

He also suggested that if the tender was rigged, it must have been rigged at the Defence Ministry, not by those on trial in Slovenia.

The prosecutor in the Patria case, Andrej Ferlinc, agrees that the outcome of the Vienna trial cannot directly affect the trial in Ljubljana.

But he pointed out for public broadcaster TV Slovenija that "the accusations in the Austrian indictment are the same or similar, only the defendants are different."

Drago Kos, the head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption at the time of the Patria deal, similarly told the STA it would be "very odd" if the court in Ljubljana found that none of the defendants received bribes.

Acquittal of all defendants in Slovenia would create a "very interesting situation...It would be obvious that either the Austrian or the Slovenian authorities made a huge mistake".


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