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Patria executives found guilty of bribing Croatian officials

A Finnish court has sentenced two former directors of the arms manufacturer to a conditional sentence of one year eight months' imprisonment, and ordered the company to pay a fine of almost 300,000 euros. The judgement is the latest in a line of corruption convictions involving executives at the defence contractor, which is majority owned by the Finnish state.

Heikki Hulkkonen (oik.)
Former Patria Vehicles director Heikki Hulkkonen was among those found guilty by a court on Monday of corruption charges. Image: Kari Mustonen / Yle

A Finnish court has found a subsidiary of the Finnish arms company Patria, as well as two of its former directors, guilty on charges of corruption in a case involving military supplies to Croatia.

The judgement is the latest in a long-running string of bribery convictions related to the defence contractor, which is majority owned by the Finnish state. Previous cases have involved prosecutors in Slovenia, Austria and Egypt as well as Finland.

On Monday, Hämeenlinna District Court handed down a sentence of one year eight months’ conditional discharge to the former vice president of Patria Vehicles, Heikki Hulkkonen, and the company’s ex-head of sales. The pair were found guilty of aggravated giving of bribes in connection with a 2007 deal with the Croatian military for AMV armoured vehicles.

The actual bribery of Croatian officials took place between 2005 and 2008, the court ruled.

A third defendant, the company’s sales and marketing director, was acquitted of all charges. He will be reimbursed around 125,000 euros’ worth of court costs..

In addition the company itself, which has since been renamed Patria Land Services Oy, was ordered to pay a fine of 297,000 euros, because one of the defendants was a member of the management.

Long delays

The prosecutor had demanded a fine of half a million euros, and the charge of aggravated giving of bribes carries a maximum sentence of four years’ imprisonment. However, the chief judge said in a statement that the sentences and fine had been reduced as a result of delays to the case. The defendants received notice of the charges against them approximately six and a half years ago.

Last year a Finnish court ruled that there was insufficient proof that a number of former Patria executives had made bribe payments to Slovenian officials during the sale of 135 AMV vehicles to Slovenia in 2006.

The court found, however, that a reasonable doubt remained that the defendants were guilty. The case will begin an appeal hearing at Turku Court of Appeal on February 24.

Corruption convictions

In 2013, a number of senior officials were convicted in Slovenia of accepting bribes, including the country’s former Prime Minister Janez Janša.

He was fined and sentenced to nearly two years in prison by a lower court. Janša, who has appealed the ruling, served as defence minister in the 1990s and as premier in 2004-08 and 2012-13.

An Austrian consultant involved in the case has also been convicted of corruption by a lower court in his country and sentenced to prison. An appeal of this judgement is also pending.

Last  month Janša also lost a long-running libel case against the Finnish national broadcaster Yle, in which the former prime minister attempted to claim 1.5 million euros’ damages through the Slovenian courts, after Yle broadcast bribery claims back in 2008.

Patria executives have previously been convicted of bribery in Egypt.

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