Leader of DeSUS and former defence minister Karl Erjavec and former Chief of the General Staff of Slovene Army Albin Gutman have been found not guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty in the Patria Affair. The court pronounced them not guilty after Higher State Prosecutor Branka Zobec Hrastar apparently failed to prove beyond the shadow of the doubt that actions of the either of the two accused caused 17 million euro of needless costs to the state budget.
It wasn’t them. Karl Erjavec and Albin Gutman (photo: Matjaž Rušt/SiOL.net)
Technically, this is not over yet, because Zobec Hrastar already filed a complaint with the Higher Court, arguing that the District Court ignored important evidence. But as things stand now, this is yet another notch in the belt of Teflon Karl who seems to be impervious to anything anyone throws at him. In this respect it is an even bigger wonder that Prime Minister Borut Pahor managed to kick Erjavec out as the minister of environment on account of waste management and mere allegations of misuse of public funds.
Erjavec and Gutman acquittal on one hand spells bad karma (as far as prosecution is concerned) vis-a-vis The Big One in the Patria Affair – the indictment of former PM and current leader of the opposition Janez Janša, who stands accused of corruption and bribery together with four more individuals. One is tempted to think that if Zobec Hrastar is unable to prove dereliction of duty, how will she prove that substantial amounts of money changed hands (or were about to)? However, from what pengovsky understands, the reasoning of the court in the case against Erjavec was rather simple: the deal with Patria was not yet concluded (i.e.: not all deliveries and payments have been made) therefore it is impossible to say when and if public funds have been unnecessarily spent. Apparently the circumstantial evidence was not strong enough to bridge this logical gap and Erjavec and Gutman walked out free men.
Whether or not this will be the case with Janša et al. remains to be seen. The amount of (dis)information in this particular case is astonishing and one can never really be sure who is working for whom. Case in point being journalist of Delo newspaper Dejan Karba who seems to be rabidly covering the case from a strong Janša-is-guilty point of view but of whose motives pengovsky voiced concerns some time ago. The two admitted to have collaborated on this issue so I’m just chasing ghosts here. But that is just a sideshow, just as the case against Erjavec could turn out to have been.
But before we get to the big finale, there will be fun galore. Not just because Janša has been found to be eschewing delivery of official mail, some of which are said to be fines for publishing personal data of third persons when publicly decrying the injustices which he is allegedly subjected to. Then there are a number of civil lawsuits by Janša against various individuals who accused him publicly of wrongdoing. There will also be funny/ridicolous/outrageous attempts by both prosecution and the defence to derail each other’s case. Not to mention the media insinuations which will be a dime a dozen and will blow everything way out of proportion. Then there’s the government of PM Pahor which is still mulling over what exactly to do about the deal with Patria. Zares of Gregor Golobič is pushing for Slovenia to bail out of the deal and take Patria to court invoking the anti-corruption clause (i.e.: the deal is null and void if there was corruption), whereas the defence minister Ljubica Jelušič is nixing this saying that a) nothing was proven yet and b) Slovenia needs those APCs.
In short, what we are up for could very well be a very powerful courtroom drama with Jack Nicholson as Janez Janša. Just try saying “You can’t handle the truth!” in Grosuplje accent :). But what we are more likely to get is a courtroom comedy which will make Monty Python look like the Royal Shakespearean Company 🙂