Czech court opens trial of former defense minister on corruption charges

By bne IntelliNews January 20, 2014

The Prague Municipal Court opened on January 20 a trial against former defense minister Martin Bartak on corruption charges, CTK news agency reported. Bartak is accused of asking former US ambassador William Cabaniss in 2010 for a USD 5mn bribe to settle a dispute between truck maker Tatra and Prague that threatened a USD 150mn deal for Tatra. Cabaniss was chairman of Tatra’s supervisory board.

Bartak has denied any wrongdoing. He faces up to 12 year in prison if found guilty.

Corruption has long been rampant in the Czech Republic. According to a recent Gallup survey, 94% of the Czechs perceive corruption as widespread throughout government. The former centre-right government was toppled in June amid a bribery and spying scandal. The fall of the government led to early general elections in October where voters, tired of graft scandals, punished the mainstream parties opting for protest parties vowing to eliminate corruption. Centrist anti-corruption movement ANO ranked second in the October elections and has teamed up with election winner leftist Social Democrats (CSSD) and Christian Democrats to form the country’s next government.

The Czech Republic ranked 57th in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, the lowest among the European Union’s three largest post-communist economies. The country shared the same spot with Croatia, Bahrain and Namibia.

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