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Finland expands Patria bribery probe to Croatia

January 3, 2011

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HELSINKI—Finnish police have begun a bribery investigation into arms group Patria's sales in Croatia, sparked by information collected during a similar probe into its dealings in Slovenia, officials said Monday.

The National Bureau of Investigation said police suspect that "money was handed to civil servants and decision makers" in 2007 when the Finnish company sold armored vehicles to Croatia in a deal valued at the time at euro112 million.

The Interior Ministry in Croatia said police there were conducting "a criminal investigation in relation to alleged illegalities in the purchase of armored vehicles" from Patria. It gave no details.

Detective Chief Inspector Kaj Bjorkvist declined to give details as both investigations were pending. But he confirmed that the bureau began the investigation in Croatia after suspicions were aroused during an ongoing probe into alleged bribes paid to Slovenian politicians in a euro280 million deal in 2006.

In October, the Slovene Parliament stripped a former prime minister of his immunity so he could be prosecuted for allegedly taking bribes while in office.

Janez Jansa, now a lawmaker in Slovenia's strongest opposition party, was indicted with four other men for seeking about euro2 million in bribes to help Patria win the 2006 tender. He has denied the charges.

In November 2008, the Finnish bureau detained former Patria CEO Jorma Wiitakorpi and another former Patria official in connection with the Slovenia investigation.

Both men were suspected of "industrial espionage, aggravated bribery and bribery in business operations," the bureau said at the time.

Patria has declined to comment on the case except to acknowledge the police arrests in Finland.

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