Accused of foreign bribery in three different countries within a decade, Finland’s flagship arms manufacturer Patria, majority-owned by the Finnish state, has a clear corruption problem. In Croatia, Egypt, and Slovenia, the company paid commissions to business partners and procurement decision-makers to secure sales of artillery and armored vehicles. While the Egyptian case resulted in convictions for Patria executives for accounting offenses, Egyptian authorities failed to prosecute bribe-takers or intermediaries in Egypt. In Croatia, too, the beneficiaries of Patria’s bribes have gone uninvestigated and unpunished. Conversely, trials in Slovenia and Austria—through which commissions were transferred—resulted in the conviction of multiple members of a corrupt payments network, even while judgments in Finland have been overturned on appeal. Reviewing the Patria prosecutions, an OECD Working Group on Bribery reported that Finnish “[p]rosecutors and investigators were emphatic that there was sufficient evidence for a conviction in each case and that the acquittals came down to the ‘unreasonably high level of proof required by the courts.’”
Hans-Wolfgang Riedl – Austrian intermediary; convicted of bribery by an Austrian court in April 2013 and sentenced to three years in prison. Conviction upheld by the Austrian Supreme Court.
Walter Wolf – Canadian-based businessman and intermediary in the Croatian and Slovenian deals. Indicted in Austrian and Slovenian courts but not tried in absentia.
Janez (Ivan) Janša – former Slovenian prime minister. Convicted of taking bribes and sentenced to two years in prison. Judgment overturned by Slovenia’s Constitutional Court.
Heikki Hulkkonen – former vice president of Patria Vehicles; convicted of bribery by a Finnish court in relation to the Croatian deal, overturned on appeal; acquitted of bribery in the Slovenian case.
Reijo Niittynen – former Patria country representative in Croatia and Slovenia; convicted of bribery by a Finnish court in relation to the Croatian deal, overturned on appeal; acquitted of bribery in the Slovenian case.
Jorma Wiitakorpi – CEO before 2008; forced to resign because of Egypt investigation, indicted in the Slovenian case and acquitted.
Summary of Corruption Allegationscontents
The Egyptian bribery scheme came to light when one of Patria’s agents, technical expert Lt. Col. (retd.) Erkki Heinilä, approached Patria leadership to express his dissatisfaction with the output of the licensed production line run by AZE. Heinilä was upset that the Patria leadership failed to address his concerns, and brought the story—including allegations of bribery—to journalist Jyri Raivio in March 2007. According to Heinilä, the senior leadership of Patria, including CEO Jorma Wiitakorpi were aware of kickbacks paid to executives at AZE as part of the partnership. These kickbacks, worth 9% of the deal’s value, were allegedly paid through Wasfi & Wafik Doss & Company, a local intermediary.
In February 2007, a branch of the Austrian Raiffeisen bank flagged a large money transfer among the middlemen involved in the two Balkan deals and brought it to the attention of Austrian financial authorities. Hans-Wolfgang Riedl, a Patria agent in Austria, sent around EUR 2.3 million to Walter Wolf, a Canadian-based intermediary, who sent the money on to accounts in Australia, Liechtenstein, and East Asia. The Austrian authorities reached out to Finnish and Slovenian counterparts, prompting investigations in both jurisdictions. In both the Slovenian and Croatian cases, prosecutors surmised that Patria had made payments to decision-makers who could influence the outcome of the hotly contested armored vehicles tenders. In Slovenia, the decision-maker would have been Prime Minister Janez Janša; in Croatia, the suspects were President Stjepan Mesić, former Prime Minister and senior statesman Franjo Gregurić, and Bartol Jerković, the director of a state-owned arms- and vehicle-manufacturing corporation.
Patria subsidiary, Patria Vammas Oy, signed an agreement with the Egyptian state-controlled company Abu Zaabal Engineering Industries (AZE) to set up a local production line for 155 mm towed artillery at a cost of between USD 17 and USD 21 million.
Patria signed a deal in Slovenia to provide 135 of its AMV armoured personnel carriers at a cost of EUR 278 million.
Patria signed a deal to provide a total of 126 AMVs for EUR 238 million to the Croatian armed forces, with part of the vehicle assembly to be performed by local firm Djuro Djakovic in the course between 2007 and 2008.
Slovenian deal was reduced to 30 AMVs at a price of EUR 75 million due to the emergence of bribery allegations.
Finnish prosecutors filed charges against Patria itself as a corporate defendant. While not indicted, CEO Wiitakorpi was forced to resign.
Slovenian prosecutors focused on conviction of former Defence Minister Karl Erjavec and former Chief of the General Staff Albin Gutman, who were key decision-makers in the armored vehicles deal, nonetheless, they were acquitted in the trial.
Slovenian prosecutors began proceedings against former Prime Minister Janez Janša, political ally Jože Zagožen, the owner of a Slovenian industrial partner, Ivan Črnkovič, and military officer Tone Krkovič and intermediary Walter Wolf.Wolf and Zagožen were removed from the case, however, the first because he could not be apprehended in Canada, and the latter due to illness and later death in fall 2013.
- Jun 2011
Finnish court found the four executives guilty of aggravated accounting offences and gave them suspended prison sentences, while dismissing charges against the company. Three of the convictions were upheld on appeal in 2013.
Vienna court sentenced middleman Hans-Wolfgang Riedl to three years in prison and fined him EUR 850,000 for bribery and tax fraud offenses. Riedl’s partner, Walter Wolf, was indicted but not placed on trial in absentia. Three other co-defendants were acquitted. Two had been accused of helping Riedl obtain documents from Austrian arms manufacturer Steyr, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Land Systems Europe and competitor of Patria.
- Jun 2013
Slovenia's lower court ruled that Janša, Krkovič, and Črnkovič were guilty of receiving gifts to influence the tender; Janša was given a two-year prison sentence, while Krkovič and Črnkovič were handed 22-month terms. The judgment found that in August 2005, Zagožen had negotiated on Janša’s behalf a commission with Hulkkonen and Niittynen to ensure Patria’s victory, to be hidden in the 7.5% commission Patria had negotiated with intermediary Hans-Wolfgang Riedl. The bribe would be drawn from Walter Wolf’s 4.2% sub-commission. In August 2006, Patria representatives signed an agreement to pay 30% of the promised commission within 30 days of a final purchase contract being signed between the Slovenian ministry of defense and Črnkovič’s firm, which would act as Patria’s local partner. In February 2007, Patria Vehicles paid EUR 3.6 million to Riedl, who in turn transferred EUR 2.3 million to Wolf. In addition, the court found that the defendants had arranged to insert Črnkovič’s firm, Rotiš d.o.o., as Patria’s industrial partner in Slovenia, and for the firm’s profits to be split between the defendants and Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party.
- Jan 2014
Finnish district court in the Slovenian case rejected aggravated bribery charges against six persons and the firm; the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2016. The accused included former CEO Wiitakorpi, Patria Vehicles vice-president Heikki Hulkkonen, Slovenia sales representative Reijo Niittynen, marketing executive Tuomas Korpi, and chief financial officer Kai Nurmio.
- Feb 2015
Finnish court convicted Hulkkonen and Niitynen of bribery in relation to the Croatia deal and sentenced the two to 20 months in prison. The court also endorsed charges against a Patria subsidiary.
- Apr 2015
Slovenia’s Constitutional Court annulled the judgment and remanded the case to the local court in Ljubljana on the basis that the court did not prove that Janša had accepted the promise of a reward. The higher court ruled that the initial judgment did prove that a payment existed, and that the receiver intended to use his influence to intervene, but did not independently prove that Janez had accepted the bribe. The possibility of a retrial was eventually dropped because too much had time had elapsed since the original suspected offenses.
- Jun 2015
Austrian high court confirmed the verdict, noting that the prosecutors had shown that Wolf passed EUR 900,000 to Zagožen in February 2007 as part of the advance commission payment demanded by Janša.
- Feb 2016
The convictions were overturned by a Court of Appeal. The appeals court ruled that certain coded messages in emails between executives could not be conclusively shown to be evidence of knowledge of bribery.
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