The Slovenia Times

Controversial Patria Trial Wraps Up, Rulings on Wednesday



Despite expectations that a verdict in the case would be known today, judge Barbara Klajnšek decided to adjourn the proceedings until Wednesday for the handing down of the rulings.

In closing arguments, the defence challenged the vague nature of the charges in the case, saying that it has prevented an effective defence and arguing that a verdict based on such "abstract claims" was impossible.

Echoing the arguments of Janša's lawyer Franci Matoz in closing arguments last week, lawyers Jože Hribernik and Dejan Marković told the court that the charges against their clients, Slovenian army Brigadier Tone Krkovič and Ivan Črnkovič, the boss of Rotis, Patria's local representative, had not been proven.

The prosecution is demanding a 24-month prison sentence for Janša and 22-month sentences for Krkovič and Črnkovič for their role in alleged bribery in securing the EUR 278m contract on eight-wheeled armoured personnel carriers with Patria. It has also asked for each to be fined EUR 37,000.

The trial also involves two other defendants, businessmen Jože Zagožen and Walter Wolf, who have been excluded for the time being due to their absence. Zagožen has excused his absence on health grounds, whereas Wolf is being sought with an international warrant after missing several trial dates.

Hribernik said today that the case against Krkovič should not even have been started on the basis of such abstract charges. Meanwhile, Marković told the court that he could not avoid feeling that the trial that started in September 2011 was politically-motivated.

"We should not blind ourselves that the only goal of this trial is convicting Janez Janša in an effort to eliminate him from the political arena," Hribernik said. He accused the prosecutor of being "at the service of a certain political faction in dealing with political opponents".

The comments drew a reprimand from Judge Barbara Klajnšek, who called on the defence lawyers to refrain from insults against the prosecution in their arguments.

The defence lawyers also criticised the use of what they argue is illegally obtained evidence, including that obtained in house searches in Finland and at the headquarters of Rotis, which they say were conducted contrary to Slovenian standards. The evidence was admitted by the court despite defence motions to have it excluded.

Moreover, Hribernik argued the defendants in the Slovenian trial have had their names abused by Patria middleman Wolfgang Riedl. "The liar Riedl," said Hribernik, played the defendants in Slovenia and Patria on the other side in order to secure a commission.

Riedl was found guilty of bribery, attempted fraud and tax evasion for his role in channelling hundreds of thousands of euros in kickbacks to Slovenia by the Vienna Provincial Court on 5 April. He was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a EUR 850,000 fine.

Hribernik said that Riedl's actions made it possible for some of the commissions to be paid out, but said that most of the money had been retained by Riedl.

Supreme State Prosecutor Andrej Ferlinc argued last week that corruption had been laid down as a goal at the very start of the process, which ended with Patria's victory in the tender in 2006 over Slovenian rival Slovenska tehnika.

According to Ferlinc, money was not discussed on a speculative level, but was actually transferred into the account of Walter Wolf. He said this was part of a 30% commission to the tune of EUR 2.3m, whose further distribution among the suspects was not halted by the defendants but by the banking employee who found the transaction suspicious.

Ferlinc argued that Janša, who was PM between 2004-2008 when the EUR 278m armoured personnel carriers deal with Finish company Patria was clinched, accepted at least a promise of a reward.

The closing arguments were followed by statements from the defendants, in which they spoke critically of the alleged political background of the trial.

Janša, who is accused of accepting a bribe in return for helping Finnish defence contractor Patria win a 2006 tender to supply 8-wheeled armoured personnel carries to Slovenia, said the prosecution had resorted to language characteristic of show trials in presenting its closing arguments.

The two-time former prime minister (2004-2008 and 2012-2013) maintained that he had not had contacts with those mentioned in the indictment, which is why he could not have accepted an offer of a bribe. He said the numerous witnesses called in the trial corroborated his story.

The indictment lacks a definitive time, place and aspects of the alleged crime, said Janša, who added that without this the prosecution had stripped him of a basic right to base his defence on an alibi.

Janša is convinced that the court cannot uphold the arguments of the prosecution. Doing so would represent a return to a period of Kangaroo Courts, he said.

Črnkovič denied resorting to bribery to win the contract for Patria, saying that the prosecution had failed to offer any proof of this.

Echoing Janša's words, he said that the case had a clear political motive related to the fact that rival bidder for the contract, Sistemska tehnika, had lost out in spite of signing a letter of intent for the deal in 2004.

Meanwhile, Krkovič said the indictment read like a complaints list. He said the prosecution resorted to far-fetched explanations in its obsession to secure a guilty verdict, saying that this was reminiscent of methods used by the former Communist regime.

Denying that he had agreed to receive a part of the profit from Rotis in return for his influence in helping secure the deal with Patria, Krkovič said that he had no influence in the army command, as he "has been isolated and sidelined for the past 20 years". "I couldn't even influence the decision on which toilet paper to order."

Walking out of the courthouse, Janša expressed disappointment that an acquittal was not handed down already today. This farce has been unnecessarily dragging on for five years and the damage grows with each additional day, he said.

In anticipation of a ruling, around 500 people had gathered in front of the courthouse to voice support for the veteran politician. A smaller group demanding that he be sent to prison also turned up, but their calls were drowned out by his supporters.


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