SLOVENIA’S FORMER prime minister Janez Jansa has gone on trial over alleged bribery in the country’s biggest defence deal.
Mr Jansa and four other men are accused of involvement in bribery during talks on a €278 million contract to buy armoured vehicles from state-run Finnish weapons-maker Patria.
Mr Jansa, who led Slovenia from 2004-8, denies the charges and says the case is part of a smear campaign by a shadowy leftist alliance that includes powerful figures in Slovenian politics, media and the security services.
Finnish television aired the allegations against Mr Jansa and his fellow accused in the weeks before Slovenia’s 2008 parliamentary elections, which saw his centre-right party narrowly defeated by the Social Democrats of Borut Pahor, who went on to replace him as prime minister.
The television report said Mr Jansa’s name was on a list of people who were due to receive a share of bribes worth millions of euro to ensure Patria secured the contract to provide 135 armoured vehicles to Slovenia in 2006.
Mr Jansa, who now leads the opposition, is suing the broadcaster that screened the report, the journalist who prepared it and the Slovenian prosecutor who filed charges against him.
A former close political aide of Mr Jansa’s is standing trial alongside him, as is a former military officer and two businessmen. All of them deny the allegations. Police in Finland and Austria are also investigating suspected wrongdoing in the deal.
Mr Jansa says the trial is intended to discredit him and scupper his chances of a return to power, as Mr Pahor’s struggling government tries to limp through to elections due next year.
“I’m afraid this farce will be a long-lasting one,” Mr Jansa said yesterday, before hearings were adjourned for a week due to the absence of one of the accused businessmen.
“Those who filed the charges didn’t do it expecting I would be found guilty, but hoping to have a long-lasting trial, during which every Monday some 50 cameras will take pictures of me,” Mr Jansa added. Finnish prosecutors are also investigating possible bribery in Croatia’s deal to buy 84 armoured vehicles from Patria for €112 million in 2007.
Croatia’s prime minister at the time, Ivo Sanader, is now facing major corruption charges. The Patria deal is not part of that case, however, and Croatian officials insist it was entirely clean.