Days ago Finnish crim-police unit investigating allegations of corruption in Patria Group visited Slovenia and questioned several people connected (or suspected to be connected with) the Slovenian arm of the affair. Led by lead investigator Erik Björkquist, investigators concentrated mostly on painter Jure Cekuta and former PM, now opposition leader Janez Janša
Janez Janša in an interrogation room, circa 1988 (source)
Cekuta is a curious character whose name occasionally pops up in most unexpected of situations. While his artwork apparently leaves a lot to be desired (or so they say), it fetches uncanny amounts of money, with Cekuta being spotted and/or mentioned in connections with some really important people in this country. He even ran for president in 2002 but fared rather poorly. Word on the street has it that he is incredibly well connected and that almost everybody who is anybody in this country at some point passed though his White Gallery including (but not limited to) the late Janez Drnovšek .
Cekuta was named as one of the possible middlemen Patria used to allegedly – well – grease the sale of 135 pricey APCs to Slovenian army. As most of you know, the TV programme ran by Finnish YLE named then-PM Janez Janša as the ultimate destination for grease money. Janša sued just about anybody who participated in the programme, including the author, journalist Magnus Berglund. Janša lost the elections of 2008 (although the scandal worked in his favour as Slovenes usually side with the victim, which was how JJ was perceived) and moved over to opposition. This brought about an increased level of cooperation between Finnish and Slovenian investigators, curiously lacking during Janša’s rule. Results were not what some people expected, though.
It emerged that Patria-related money was flowing between Jure Cekuta, Austrian businessman Wolfgang Riedl who did business with Slovene ministry of defence and Walter Wolf, a Slovene-Canadian-Austrian businessman who happens to hold Croatian citizenship as well (some people may remember his stint in Formula One). Everybody denied it at first, and Finnish investigators voiced their frustration at the fact that they lose track of money at the point where it allegedly “entered” Slovenia. But as the Slovene end of the investigation finally intensified, Riedl confirmed that he paid Cekuta a sum of 340,000 euros for Patria-related services. You know, 340k€ buys a lot of paint.
So, money did come to Slovenia. And so did Erik Björkquist and his investigators who quizzed Janez Janša for about three-and-a-half hours. Björkquist refused to give a statement to Slovene media after the deed was done. Curiously enough, he was more than willing to talk to Croatian media (a part of investigation extends to this would-be EU member as well) and said that Janša was indeed quizzed as a suspect (not as witness) and that there is enough solid evidence against him to warrant the interrogation.
Janez Janša, however, told a completely different story. Upon emerging from the interrogation room (parallels with his arrest in 1988 were unavoidable) he said that he was shown a “strategic paper” by Patria, compiled in 2005 on how to land the deal in Slovenia, that several names were mentioned, including that of the late president Janez Drnovšek and former PM Tone Rop (who lost to Janša in 2004 elections). Janša added that Jure Cekuta was named as a contact/lobbyist who “covered” both Drnovšek and Rop, while the problem – said the document according to Janša – was the new government (Janša’s government, the document dates back to 2005), to which Patria had no direct access. Janša went on to say that the document contained no letter “J” (which led journalist Berglund to conclude that Janša was the ultimate destination of the 21 million bribe), that he has no idea why the questioning took so long, since Björkquist only asked two or three questions and spent most of the time sending text messages while questions and were translated to and fro Slovene. Jure Cekuta was questioned the very next day and spent most of it with the investigators, breaking only for lunch. He said that he was not shown any “strategic document”, more or less admitted to have been given the 340k euros, but said that it had nothing to do with Patria.
Until now everyone involved more or less kept their mouth shut, but cracks in the story are beginning to appear. Right now everyone is trying to put a daylight between themselves and Jure Cekuta, who it seems is poised to be left out in the cold. Which makes him the perfect candidate for blowing whistle. Provided of course there is something to blow the whistle about. Things did not stop there, however, which might be an indication that Janša’s cage was rattled pretty hard.
Immediately after the questioning he mentioned names of Janez Drnovšek and Tone Rop. This serves no other purpose then to cool the heat he is apparently feeling. Ditto for saying that Björkquist was texting all the time. This is clearly aimed at portraying the lead investigator as an inept and incapable, at the same time inferring (but not saying) that he was either receiving instructions from or reporting to someone outside the interrogation room. And, sure enough, today’s Demokracija (SDS’s unofficial weekly) ran an interview with Janša where the latter “assumes that Björkquist is following a political agenda“. And to top it all, Janša’s party today released a statement accusing President of the Republic Danilo Türk of political bias and about-face, since he (upon hearing of Drnovšek and Rop being mentioned) stated that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, whereas a year ago (when JJ’s name was mentioned) he said no such thing, but rather stated that this is a test for the rule of law.
You see the pattern? First Janša says something, then someone else from his camp infers his statement is completely accurate and calls upon people whom Janša named to explain themselves. As for Janša himself, he is now claiming that basically everyone in this Finnish conspiracy is after him. There’s a word for that.