Verdict in Patria Trial Expected Today

05. 04. 2011

Verdict in Patria Trial Expected Today

The prosecution claims that Erjavec, the president of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), and Gutman caused at least EUR 16.8m damage in the EUR 278m deal with Finnish contractor Patria on the supply of 135 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), while the defence denies this.

A task force for organised crime filed charges against Erjavec, who signed the deal with Rotis, the Slovenian company selected to supply the APCs from Patria, and Gutman at the end of 2009.

The pair are on trial for agreeing that 25 of the vehicles could be delivered without equipment, and ordering only six to be equipped with 30 mm cannons as opposed to 70 that were originally to be armed with the cannon.

Shortly after receiving the notice of indictment in early 2010, Erjavec stepped down as environment minister under the government of PM Borut Pahor amidst accusations of irregularities concerning waste management voiced by the Court of Audit.



The trial did not start until 22 November 2010 and the public has been excluded due to confidential documentation.

While prosecutor Branka Zobec Hrastar has been tight-lipped about the case, the defence has been rather vocal in keeping public informed on the developments in the courtroom.

Erjavec has been arguing that no damage has been caused, as the APCs have not even been fully delivered yet. He said that the rules on equipping the army which he is said to have violated never really applied. He has been insisting that the trial was a "political farce" and an "abuse of the prosecution".

His lawyer Luka Podjed as well as Gutman and his lawyer Emil Zakonjsek have been pursuing the same line of defence.



Incumbent Defence Minister Ljubica Jelusic and Chief-of Staff, Maj-Gen Alojz Steiner both confirmed that no damage had been caused by the 2006 deal when they took the stand in January.

According to Podjed, Steiner moreover confirmed that the purchase had been justified, while the key witness for the prosecution - defence expert Erik Kopac - failed to confirm that damage had been caused despite the fact that the prosecution's case was built on Kopac's report.

The fate of Erjavec and Gutman will thus be known on Monday, while this might not be the last trial in connection with the disputed deal, the largest defence purchase in Slovenian history.

A group of five men, including opposition leader Janez Jansa, have been charged with bribery or aiding and abating in bribery in connection with the deal. The case has not made it to court yet.

The deal became a hot political issue in Slovenia in the run-up to the 2008 general election, when a Finnish current affairs TV show alleged that Jansa was among suspects in a corruption sting in connection with the deal. Jansa has vehemently denied the allegations, suing the the Finnish public broadcaster YLE over the report.


SOURCE: Slovenia Times