Celje – GE STEAM Power Systems, the legal successor to Alstom, has struck a plea bargain with the prosecution in a case involving an alleged bribery scheme in the construction of TEŠ6, the EUR 1-billion-plus unit six at the Šoštanj coal-fired plant (TEŠ).
The proposed plea agreement was announced by the judge as the first pre-trial hearing in one of the biggest corruption cases in Slovenia finally got under way at the Celje District Court on Tuesday.
As the legal successor to the main contractor in the TEŠ6, GE STEAM Power Systems pleaded guilty to acting as an accessory to abuse of office and agreeing to pay EUR 23 million in damages plus EUR 50,000 in legal costs, the newspaper Večer reports online.
The plea agreement still needs to be endorsed by the court. Judge Mojca Turinek said she would examine the terms of the plea agreement in the continuation of the trial. It is not yet clear when a sentence will be handed to the former Alstom.
French multinational Alstom Power, now part of the US corporation General Electric, is one of the defendants in the trial, along with a Slovenian legal entity and ten Slovenian and foreign individuals.
They are charged with two dozen counts of abuse of office or trust in economic activity, money laundering or being an accessory to these crimes.
The prosecution alleges they were involved in a bribery scheme in the construction of TEŠ6, whose cost ballooned from the initial estimate of EUR 650 million to the final price tag of EUR 1.41 billion, and in renovation of unit 5 at TEŠ.
As Alstom’s legal successor General Electric had already reached a EUR 261 million out-of-court settlement with TEŠ owner, Slovenian state-owned energy group HSE, in March, thus indirectly admitting to foul play in the TEŠ6 project.
The chief defendant in the trial, former TEŠ CEO Uroš Rotnik, pleaded not guilty today, rejecting all charges against him.
This was after his defence counsel proposed for the pre-trail arraignment to be postponed arguing the judge should first state her position on the plea bargain, a proposal the judge turned down as unfounded.
The counsel, Mitja Jelenič Novak, also asked the court to remove from the case file evidence such as electronic documents and all data storage.
Except for the successor to Alstom, no other defendant in the dock today pleaded guilty.
The hearings today come more than a year after the indictment in the case was filed and more than ten years after police started their inquiries into alleged corruption at TEŠ.
The pre-trial arraignments were supposed to start in late May, but Rotnik’s lawyer had sought for the judge’s recusal, a motion that the court president failed to grant.
The defendants face up to 20 years in prison.