By Sven Milekic
The Croatian office for suppressing corruption and organised crime, USKOK, filed an indictment on Friday against two Croatian citizens over the controversial deal to repair and buy MiG military jets from the Ukrainian state-owned arms company Ukrspecexport.
After more than nine months of an investigation which also involved the Military Security and Intelligence Agency and the military police, USKOK filled the indictment at Zagreb county court against a defence ministry employee and an employee of the company involved in the deal.
The defence ministry employee was a member of an expert committee that was considering the repair of the jets.
According to the indictment, the suspect asked for a 50,000 euro bribe from companies that applied for the public tender.
Representatives of one company rejected the demand, while a representative from the second company – the second indictee – accepted the offer and paid the ministry employee at least 10,000 euros on two occasions in January and February this year.
The Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list reported in March that military police and VSOA were investigating the 17.6 million euro deal, made in July 2013 between the Croatian defence ministry and Ukrspecexport.
Under the terms of the deal, the Ukrainians would repair seven Soviet-model MiG-21 jets and sell Croatia another five used jets.
The contract said the five MiGs that would be sold to Croatia were once used by the Jordanian air force.
According to Jutarnji list, however, the five jets were not formerly used by Jordan but were put together using old parts from Bulgaria, Algeria and the former Soviet Union.
It also claimed that the jets sent for repair contained parts which did not correspond to the parts listed in the official documentation.
The ministry initiated an inspection and investigation when it was clear that the repaired jets were experiencing technical difficulties. In July 2014, Jutarnji list reported that the first planes handed to Croatia had serious technical problems.
Jutarnji list said that there were suspicions that the repairs were never done and that the documentation for them was forged.
From the beginning, the Ukrainian company failed to meet deadlines. The last planes were delivered by late July 2015, for which the ministry paid some 280,000 euro less than originally agreed.
The deal was contracted by the now former centre-left government, whose defence minister Ante Kotromanovic, a distinguished officer from the 1990s war, is a member of the now-opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP.
Although Croatia is a member of NATO, its air force is in bad condition. This was highlighted in August 2014 when a MiG-21, which had not been repaired by the Ukrainians, crashed near Zagreb due to technical difficulties, although the pilot managed to eject.
Zagreb county court now has to decide whether to accept the indictment, reject it or send it for additional investigation.
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