petek, januar 07, 2005

Slovenia’s first corruption case finally over?

After more than four years, the trial of former Ministry of the Economy State Secretary Boris Šuštar has apparently drawn to a close, with a sentence of two years in prison and a 5m tolar (about USD 28,000) fine for Mr. Šuštar [Radio Slovenija / 31.12.04 / Former Slovene state secretary reportedly found guilty of corruption].

Šuštar has been sentenced in the case twice before. First, Šuštar was convicted in the spring of 2001, but, in a strange twist, both the defense and the prosecution petitioned the court to throw out the sentence. According to the defense, many of the witnesses were unreliable, and new evidence of Šuštar's innocence had emerged since the original trial. The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that there were significant errors in the earlier proceedings. The court agreed and threw out the earlier conviction [SB / 14.05.02 / Šuštar returns to court].

The second ruling came in early December 2003, when the Ljubljana district court found Šuštar guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced him to two years and four months in prison and a 7m tolar (about USD 40,000) fine.

In the latest ruling, three others implicated in the case have also been given lighter sentences. Stanislav Droljec has been convicted of assisting in bribe taking and his sentence has been lessened from two years to one year and eight months in prison and a 5m tolar (apx. USD 28,000) fine. Šuštar's wife Rožana was also convicted of assisting in bribe taking and sentenced to a fine of 2m tolars (apx. USD 11,000) instead of 3m. Boštjan Sobe alone saw his conviction and sentence remain the same: a fine of 3m tolars (apx. USD 17,000) for assisting in bribe taking.

Šuštar's lawyer, Peter Ceferin, is already demanding yet another retrial, despite the already-lesser sentence. And so long as the new appeal is pending, Šuštar is not required to begin serving his sentence [Finance / 04.01.05 / B. Šuštarju morda ne bo treba v zapor].

The Šuštar affair begain in 2000 and is the country’s first major corruption scandal. Šuštar maintains that his arrest and conviction were politically motivated. He believes that after he fell out of favor with his party, the LDS, he was sacrificed to higher interests: the need to prosecute a high-profile corruption case to prove the government’s commitment to fighting corruption. Helsinki Monitor agreed that the Šuštar case was exploited to demonstrate to the EU that Slovenia is serious about tackling corruption. Šuštar maintains that bribery between corporations and the government is common, even among some prominent politicians [SB / 02.11.01 / Epilogue to the Šuštar corruption case, SB / 19.01.02 / Šuštar accuses widespread corruption], SB / 03.05.03 / Boris Šuštar retrial begins, SB / 07.12.03 / Šuštar once again convicted].