The Patria Affair got an impetus in the last days of August when Branka Zobec Hrastar,
Supreme Higher State Prosecutor in charge of Slovenian end of investigation which took place in Finland, Austria, Slovenia and even Croatia, indicted five individuals including former prime minister and head of opposition Slovene democratic party Janez Janša. Obviously, this is huge. Not only because it is the first time a high ranking politician was indicted, but also because this is the first time an arms-deal investigation will reach a courtroom finale.
The five stand accused of various forms of corruption and bribery or aiding and abetting corruption. Since Janez Janša is at the focal point of interest regarding this story, it should be said out front that the prosecution (according to reports by Mladina) possesses only circumstantial evidence against Janša which probably means that the former prime minister will skate clean, even if he did stick his hand in the pot and lined his and his party’s coffers. And I’m not saying he did (yes, I am covering my ass here :)).
It’s all a conspiracy!
However, it would seem that Janša’s cage was rattled pretty hard. After the news of indictment was leaked, Janša retorted with vocabulary we’ve all but forgotten and which was indicative of Janša during his pre-PM escapades when he was desperate for a short-cut to power (and without exception failed spectacularly). Words like “udbomafia”, “regime media”, “a plant”, “forgeries”, “the [communist] party” and so forth. For the umpteenth time Janša invoked his I-was-arrested-in-’88-bitch! approach (sort of Slovene version of “I was in ‘Nam!” and tired to prove that basically he is the victim of a 22-year-long conspiracy with former president Milan Kučan on top of it. To prove his point, he pointed out that prosecutor’s husband was one of his arresting officers in 1988 (the JBTZ affair), which – implies Janša – proves that there are sinister forces at work and that this country has a parallel power structure (dubbed “udbomafia”).
To cut a long story short: According to media reports, in what is apparently a heap of evidence which includes impounded notes, calendars, computers and emails, as well as more than a hundred SMS messages and phone numbers, the prosecution claims to have reconstructed a chain of events in which PM Janez Janša and those close to him decided upfront that Slovenia will buy 135 8×8 APCs from Finnish Patria rather than Ravne-based Sistemska tehnika, since the latter was dubbed as being closely allied with LDS, which Janša had (at the time the decision of purchase was being made) just thrown out of power. In exchange for awarding the deal to Patria, compensations are fees were -according to prosecution – expected and arranged via a series of middle men and at least one company. The final destination of at least part of the money (after the middlemen had taken their cut) was supposedly Janša’s Slovene democratic party. The final sum of the compensation (i.e.: bribe) is estimated around 3 million euro, of which some 900,000 euro is thought to have changed hands. As a result indictments were filed against Janša, his friend and brother-in-arms Brigadier General Tone Krkovič, Jože Zagožen (high ranking SDS official and minister of economy during a brief right wing government in 2000), Ivan Črnkovič (CEO of Rotis, a go-between-company, which was set up to “represent” Patria in Slovenia) and Walter Wolf, A Slovene Canadian with an eclectic range of business interests (from Formula 1 racing, to tobacco, clothing and arms deals). But that’s just to bring you up to speed. What happens now is that a lot of interesting questions pop up.
The natural reflex is to put the situation in the context of this autumn’s local elections. Sure, there’s an undeniable political component, either by design or just by extension, but to say that the indictments were filed to influence the result on 10 October is pure oversimplification. Not in the least because we know what happened just weeks before 2008 elections: when Patria affair exploded, Janša was widely perceived as the victim of a smear campaign. Regardless of the gravity or credibility of accusations, Slovene electorate seems to be a collective sucker for the politician others pick on. It happened in Ljubljana in 2006 elections, when shit was thrown at Zoran Janković and after Patria broke, Janša’s popularity actually rose. It was only after the then-opposition ceased beating the drum on that particular tune and switched to other issues, did Janša’s popularity take a dive and he ultimately lost the elections.
The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that the Finnish part of the investigation was concluded some months ago and it seems probable that Slovene end could only be concluded after the Finns did their part. Led by Kaj Erik Björkqvist, the Finnish investigators took their time and extended the duration of investigation at least twice. And thirdly, it is not unimportant that prosecutor Zobec Hrastar filed the indictments while her boss Barbara Brezigar was on vacation. And this is where we get into speculation territory. In other words: the fun part
The Canine Affair
Remember that one? The media frenzy, the rabid masses and the drooling right-wing politicos who got their hard-ons repeating over and over just who supposedly banged who and that the political left is nothing but a bunch of sodomites who get together in secret meetings to tickle each other’s asses and hump dogs for fun. In other words, at that time the right wing and most of the media were sporting a classic case of psychological projection. Be that as it may, it so happened that Branka Zobec Hrastar was heading a tangential investigation into just who exactly leaked photos of dead Saša Baričevič, a prominent doctor who was mauled to death by his bull mastiffs. At some point during the investigation Zobec Hrastar’s superior, Prosecutor General Barbara Brezigar (politically very close to Janez Janša) started communicating with the investigative police officer, thus bypassing Zobec Hrastar. Political left went apeshit and accused Brezigar of trying to influence and/or obstruct the investigation and called for her dismissal.
Despite her unquestionable expertise, Barbara Brezigar is as popular with the political left as, say, clap. Aligning yourself with Janez Janša will do that to you. She is, perhaps unjustly, perceived as an instrument of his political power and influence, with her role being primarily to keep the man out of hot water, not unlike she did with the Depala Vas affair. However, she did nothing to impede the Patria investigation. She could have relieved Zobec Hrastar and reassigned the case to a more, say, suggestible prosecutor. Or at least someone who is more likely to fuck up. Namely, Zobec Hrastar is reportedly a very good prosecutor with a record of establishing rock-solid cases and with some big scoops under her belt. So the question is why did Brezigar leave Zobec Hrastar be?
The answer could lie in the meeting between Brezigar and Zobec Hrastar chez PM Borut Pahor who called the meeting in late March this year after the Brezigar vs. Zobec Hrastar clash over the investigation of the leaked photo. Apparently a lot was said there and then and part of the transcript still remains classified. Since Zobec Hrastar was already heading the Patria investiation at that time, one could speculate that Brezigar (who against all odds was not dismissed and even won praise by PM Pahor) agreed to cease protecting Janša in order to save her own skin. This took the form of her conveniently being on vacation while the indictments were filed by Zobec Hrastar who then also conveniently slipped on a vacation of her own, thus creating a six-week window where there was no one around who could possibly prevent procedures from taking their course. A classic case of “Hey, I was on vacation, I couldn’t do a thing about it”.
Secondly, there’s a possibility that Brezigar would like to help Janša but that the case against him is so strong that not even she can help him this time around. A lot of people on the left are fapping wildly just thinking about this option. However, there’s another possible explanation. Regardless of Zobec Hrastar’s ability it could very well be that Brezigar thinks that the case against Janša (the other four people are “expendables”) is far from watertight and that she needn’t intervene at all. In other words, that Janša will walk away clean from this one and – yet again – politically much much stronger than before.
Circumstantial evidence and the Australian connection
Pengovsky loves to make leftist miserable (hey, you gotta pick on your own kind, it a leftist thing :)), so the following has to be said: based on the information available, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell Janša will be convicted. First and foremost, the evidence against him is circumstantial. If he indeed had a hand in the Affair, it will be hard to prove as he indeed took great care not to be directly linked to Patria or their middlemen. I agree, there wasn’t an arms scandal in Slovenia where Janša’s name didn’t pop up sooner rather than later, but proving in a court of law that he a) demanded and b) took bribes from Patria will be fucking difficult. And unless proven guilty, he is innocent.
However, there are a couple of lose ends in this whole thing. First and foremost is the trail of money. The prosecution apparently claims that a large cut of “commissions” went to Janša’s Slovene Democratic Party. If that is true, I kind of doubt they would be stupid enough to just have the money transferred onto their bank account. And sure enough Walter Wolf together with his Austrian associate Wolfgang Riedl apparently gave some 900.000 euro in cash to a Thai citizen who in Vienna boarded a plane to Bangkok and vanished from the face of the Earth.
Or did he? Relatively speaking Thailand is fairly close to Australia, and that’s where there’s rather strong power- and money-base for SDS. In this case we’re talking of one Dušan S. Lajovic, a prominent member of Slovene diaspora in Australia, who became generally known when he established a website called udba.net (now defunct) where he published raw personel records of Slovene branch of UDB (later SDV), Yugoslav secret police. Lajovic is also believed to have bankrolled various SDS campaigns and operations and was (for a time at least) very close to Janša. So, without a shred of evidence and purely on instinct, pengovsky thinks that if SDS and Janša did indeed take money, it ended up Down Under.
Also, this was the first time Janša slipped and fumbled. When appearing in the first edition of a new hard-talking, hard-hitting show on state television (in other words, utter crap of a show produced by overpaid and under-talented journos who defected over from POP TV – more on that some other time) Janša was, for the first time, caught in an outright lie.
It was a comparatively small thing. In an exchange between Janša and Drago Kos (outgoing head of anti-corruption commission, head od CrimPolice during Depala vas Affair and a man Janša detests), the former accused the latter of making things up while being questioned as a witness in Finnish part of the Patria investigation and that Janša only saw Kos’ testimony days ago, after it was published in a recently released book by one Dejan Kaloh (at this point an unimportant side-kick) and that he will, as a result, sue Kos. However, sitting next to Janša was also journalist Dejan Karba who said that Janša knew about Kos’ statements for months, ever since he (that is Karba) gave Janša a transcript of Kos’ testimony, with important bits marked and that same transcript now appears in Kaloh’s book. In other words: Janša supplied at least part of documentation to Kaloh who in turn published a book exonerating Janša and saying that it is all the work of a dark organisation with Milan Kučan on top. Which is what Janša claims all along.
Thus we’ve seen on live television how Janša works. He bends the truth to the point of lying, has others repeat his version of events and then quotes those people as independent sources supporting his conspiracy theories. As a side note it should be noted that this was also the first time we’ve heard confirmation of collaboration between Karba and Janša (which apparently went sour at some point). Pengovsky wrote about that months ago, but was widely mocked for being overimaginative. Eat that, biyotches! 😀
For better or for worse, this is the first allegedly corrupt arms deal in this country that will end up in court. This in itself is a noteworthy event. The fact that every time around more or less the same principals appear, will add gravity to the situation as the outcome will inevitably be interpreted as a symbolic verdict in all arms scandals which rocked the country in early 90s. Thus even though the case was filed with the local court, which deals with cases which carry only up to three year prison sentence, the final result will have consequences beyond the Patria affair
In terms of political fallout we should make a distinction between Janez Janša and the rest of the accused. Not only because Janša is the only one against whom evidence is (reportedly) entirely circumstantial, but also because he is the only one among the five who is holding public office. On that note, there’s an ongoing investigation against leader of DeSUS and defence minister in Janša’s government Karl Erjavec, for alleged negligence with regard to the Patria issue. The same charge extends to former Commander of General Staff of the Slovenian Army Albin Gutman.
Good old days
Namely. It is highly unlikely that all five will be found guilty. There will be enormous media and political pressure from both sides and the court will have a hard time maintaining composure and keeping the case on track. Add to that the lack of direct evidence against Janša (I can’t stress that point enough) and you have a high possibility that Janša himself will be acquitted while some people will be left hanging (chief candidate among them is Jože Zagožen). To Janša’s supporters this will the ultimate proof that the man is innocent and was used by people around him, while his detractors will see it as proof enough that he’s just as guilty, only that he was wise enough to put a daylight between himself and people who ran bag for him. And it’ll all be just like the good old days, no?