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HELSINKI, FINLAND — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) suspects that between four and five former executives of the Finnish-owned defense group Patria may have offered financial inducements to Croatian officials to obtain a lucrative $146 million 8 x 8 armored modular vehicle (AMV) contract in 2007.
According to the NBI, investigators believe that the same executives also were involved in offering financial and other illegal inducements to obtain a larger AMV contract, worth $362 million, with Slovenia in 2006.
“The same former employees in Patria are also under suspicion regarding possible payment of bribes in the sale of AMVs to Slovenia. It is suspected that a consultant who was involved with the Slovenia deal received a 30 percent upfront payment, and that a total of about €1.5 million ($2 million) was paid out in bribes,” said Kaj Björkvist, the senior lead investigator with the NIB.
The former Patria executives are expected to face a range of charges, including aggravated bribery. The final investigation report into the Croatian deal is expected to reach Finland’s prosecutors office in July, while the case involving the Slovenian deal is due to reach court in August.
Slovenia’s purchase of 135 Patria AMV infantry fighting vehicles was the biggest military equipment acquisition in the country’s history. More than 30 percent of the AMVs supplied were equipped with the NEMO mortars and Elbit 30mm remote-controlled weapon stations.
On June 5, the Ljubljana district court in Slovenia sentenced former prime minister Janez Jansa to two years in prison for soliciting $2 million in bribes from Patria executives in exchange for a defense contract. Jansa denied the accusations.
Patria is facing separate legal proceedings in the Finnish courts starting in August. The company continues to maintain its innocence, with Patria’s head of legal affairs, Sirpa Helena Sormunen, claiming the state defense group has a “zero tolerance” policy on corruption.
“The Finnish court will make its own deliberations. Judicially the two cases are not directly linked. We will strive to ensure that work is undertaken with a neutral relationship towards judgments handed down in other countries,” Sormunen said.
The Kanta-Häme district court in Finland heard a preparatory hearing on the AMV sale to Slovenia in May. The charges of aggravated bribery are suspected to have taken place in 2005 to 2007. In addition, several of the defendants will face charges of business espionage.
The Finnish prosecutor is also demanding that a corporate fine be imposed on Patria Land Services Oy for its role in the deal.