Czech lobbyist Marek Dalik, a backroom fixer rumoured to have worked closely with former Civic Democrat (ODS) premier Mirek Topolanek, was sentenced on February 2 to five years in prison for corruption over a CZK14bn defence contract. Dalik, who was also ordered to pay CZK5mn, will appeal the sentence.
While the case stands out as one of the few corruption investigations that has reached the upper echelons of a Czech government, it is also notable for the point at which it stops. The scandal over Dalik's demands for a bribe from Austrian arms company Steyr in return for a contact to purchase Pandur armoured personnel carriers (APCs) was one factor in the fall of the Topolanek's government in a 2009 no-confidence vote, but the former premier has never been charged with any crime.
Dalik was convicted of demanding a €18mn backhander from Steyr at a meeting in a Prague restaurant in November 2007. In late 2007, the ODS government ripped up a CZK21bn contract with Steyr that had been agreed in 2006 by the previous CSSD government. A new tender was launched in 2008, at the end of which the Czech military eventually agreed to buy 107 Pandurs for CZK14.4bn.
The evidence is clear that Dalik asked for a bribe at the meeting on someone else's order, the court concluded, according to CTK. However, it cannot be specified who made the order, it added. The circle of suspects is very narrow, the court said.
At the time, Topolanek and Dalik were friends and close neighbours in the swanky Prague 6 district, and were alleged by the Czech media to be working closely together. Topolanek has always denied any involvement in the case.
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