Prague/Vienna - Two former Austrian bankers, Hans Leitner and Peter Andahazy, are confident they have enough evidence to prove the same people were behind the shady privatization of Česká spořitelna in 2000 and Gripen corruption scandal.
At the same time they are aware if they do not prove their accusation, they may face heavy fines and lawsuits themselves.
But they have enough documents from intelligence agencies from a number of European countries, the former bankers told Aktuálně.cz. The documents contain names of specific individuals as well as their bank accounts.
The bank managers were laid off from the Erste Bank this spring on suspicion of money laundering, illegal gold sales and illegal launch of a bank subsidiary.
The Austrian court acquitted both of them and soon they came up with corruption charges against their former employer.
- In 2002, the cabinet of Miloš Zeman (Social Democrats - ČSSD) was in charge of replacing the army's ageing fleet of Soviet built Mig-21s with twenty-four JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets from the British-Swedish consortium BAE Systems/SAAB. The cabinet approved the 60 billion crown (2.8 billion US dollars) purchasing contract in April but failed to get approval by the Senate.
- In 2004, the Czech Army signed a contract with BAE Systems/SAAB to lease - rather than purchase - 14 Gripen fighter jets for 20 billion CZK.
- The accounts of BAE Systems led the British Serious Fraud Office to investigace whether the company spent large sums of money on bribes in a bid to get Czech lawmakers to support the deal.
Hans Leitner and Peter Andahazy are accusing the Erste Bank of channeling bribes to politicians and officials in Central and Eastern Europe, including the purchase of the state stake in Česká spořitelna.
They also claim that the same people that were involved in the Erste Bank's corruption activities were involved in the Gripen corruption case. There were shady bank transfers and cash flow going through the Erste Bank connected to the Gripen purchase, the bankers alleged.
In American courts we trust
Trusting the American judicial system more than the one in Europe, they hired American lawyers and are now preparing to file a lawsuit with the American Federal Court by the end of this year.
They have already met with FBI agents who have shown interest in investigating the privatization of the state stake in Česká spořitelna and Czech army's lease of Gripen jet fighters.
"After it was made public that we intend to fight against the Erste dirty business in the United States, secret service agents from across Europe have contacted us, offering us documents that may be helpful at the court," Hans Leitner told Aktuálně.cz.
"Thanks to that in some countries we have got access to people involved in the case, to cash flows or "bonuses" as well as bank account numbers," he added.
No details to give yet
The bank managers have declined to give more details.
"First of all, we need to submit all the documents to the (Federal) Court before we make them public. And secondly, we do not communicate with the people that have contacted us directly but we refer them to our lawyers," Peter Andahazy said.
Intelligence services traditionally monitor strategic sales of state property or transactions that are significantly related to the economics of the state. As Aktuálně.cz learned, the privatization of the banking sector at the turn of the century in former East Bloc countries was closely watched.
It is not uncommon that sensitive information collected by secret services does not lead to official investigation in the countries where corruption occurs. Therefore secret reports end up in the secret agents' drawers.