* Contract involved purchases of vehicles from Austria
* U.S. document leaked by Wikileaks had mentioned suspect
* Graft has dominated public debate in Czech
PRAGUE, Oct 8 The Czech republic's long-running
corruption scandal among high officials boiled up again on
Monday when Czech police brought charges against a close
associate of a former prime minister over a deal to buy armoured
Graft among the political class has dominated public debate
in the central European country and hurt the popularity of the
main political parties.
The centre-right cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Necas, in
power since 2010, has beefed-up legislation on public
procurement and appointed new prosecutors who have taken a more
aggressive stance, bringing charges against current and former
players in both government and opposition camps.
High State Attorney Lucie Bradacova said police have charged
Marek Dalik, an adviser to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek during
his term in 2006-2009, with fraud in relation to the
government's purchase of 107 Pandur armed personnel carriers
from Austria in 2009 for 14.4 billion crowns ($756.34 million).
"The corruption and financial crime unit has detained...one
person in connection with the Pandur case," Bradacova told Czech
Television on Monday, identifying the person as Dalik.
Earlier documents leaked to Czech media had alleged that a
manager for Austrian firm Steyr, a unit of U.S. firm General
Dynamics that makes the carriers, told investigators that
Dalik asked for a bribe of 18 million euros to secure the deal.
A U.S. embassy cable leaked by Wikileaks last year also
cited a Steyr official as saying Dalik had sought a bribe.
Dalik, who faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted, had
earlier d enied he had sought any bribes. Topolanek has also
denied any irregular procedures in the contract.
A Steyr spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Earlier this year, police charged Governor of Central
Bohemia David Rath, from the opposition Social Democrats, with
taking bribes after catching him with a box containing 7 million
crowns, which they say was a bribe for a construction contract.
The parliament has stripped the immunity of former defence
minister Vlasta Parkanova, suspected of signing an unfavourably
priced deal to buy military transport planes. Another former
defence minister, Martin Bartak, has been charged with allegedly
demanding bribes in a case involving the purchase of army
All deny any wrongdoing.
Last week, Labour Minister Jaromir Drabek said he would
resign at the end of October after his deputy was charged with
($1 = 19.0391 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka, additional reporting by Georgina
Prodhan in Vienna; Editing by Michael Roddy)