Czech envoy submits affidavit

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar has submitted an affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to formalize his accusation that officials of the Metro Rail Transit 3 were involved in an alleged $30-million extortion attempt on a Czech company that offered to supply trains.

A source told The STAR yesterday that this means Rychtar is waiving his diplomatic immunity from suit.

“The affidavit will make him (Rychtar) susceptible to possible counter charges,” the source said.

The four-page affidavit signed by Rychtar was sworn to in the Jimeno, Cope and David Law Offices last Oct. 11 and was submitted to the bureau earlier this week.

“His affidavit is similar to that submitted by the Inekon group. The ambassador merely reiterated his earlier accusation against some MRT officials, including MRT general manager Al Vitangol III,” the source said.

In a separate affidavit, Inekon board chairman and chief executive officer Josef Husek said MRT officials led by Vitangcol invited the Czech company’s officials to an informal dinner in a Makati restaurant on July 9, 2012.

Husek stated that the dinner was attended by Rychtar, Vitangcol, Manolo Maralit who was introduced as a liaison, and Wilson de Vera.

“Contrary to our intentions, the dinner turned out to be social rather than business; we presented our new offers for the project without any result,” Husek said in the affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR.

Before the dinner ended, Vitangcol’s group invited the Czech firm officials to another meeting in a “private place” to discuss the collaboration between the company and the MRT.

The second meeting took place in Rychtar’s official residence in Forbes Park, Makati City.

Husek, Inekon chief operating officer Milan Haloun, Maralit and De Vera attended the meeting.

Husek, in his affidavit, narrated, “While talking about the tender, Mr. Wilson de Vera suggested that we would be selected as supplier of the tram vehicles and related services, provided that we (pay) to an unknown entity a certain amount of money. Mr. Wilson de Vera indicated such payment should amount to US$30 million.”

“This suggestion shocked us, as we did not expect this way of doing business. We tried to explain that any paid sum would inevitably increase the final price of our products and services, because the prices (were) carefully calculated with regard to process of our subcontractors and value of the technology to be used in the project,” Husek added.

He stated that De Vera left the premises several times to “consult someone” over the phone.

“When he finally returned to the residence, he told us that according to Mr. Vitangcol the contract price for one tram vehicle (will) not exceed US$3 million, as that is a fixed ceiling price set forth in an MRT consultancy expert report. He then told us that the sum of US$2.5 million instead of US$30 million indicated originally would be sufficient,” Husek said.

Inekon refused the proposal and left the meeting, Husek stated.

“Before we did so, Mr. Wilson de Vera encouraged us to think about his suggestion until the official meeting scheduled for the next day at MRT,” Husek said.

In the afternoon of July 10, the Inekon officials and Rychtar met again with Vitangcol in his office in Quezon City. When they arrived, Vitangol was accompanied by De Vera. A little later, Maralit arrived.

“Mr. Vitangcol asked whether we accepted the proposal put forward by Mr. Wilson de Vera the day before. Furthermore, he immediately and insistently proposed to sign an agreement establishing a joint venture of Inekon group and people suggested by Mr. Vitangcol,” Husek said.

Under the proposed joint venture, Inekon would control 60 percent of the shares, with the 40 percent held by people proposed by Vitangcol.

“Its purpose would be to assume the contract for maintenance of MRT which was soon up for renewal,” Husek stated.

When Inekon again rejected the proposal, it “upset” Vitangcol, Husek noted.

“On our way back to the hotel, Ambassador Rychtar informed us that he just received via mobile phone a text message from Mr. Maralit. In the message, Mr. Maralit informed Ambassador Rychtar that Mr. Vitangcol and Mr. Wilson de Vera were furious, because we refused to accept their suggestions. According to the message, MRT would never do any business with Inekon Group in the future,” Husek stated.

Inekon was among five companies that bought bidding documents from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) for the P3.8-billion MRT 3 expansion project. But the company wants a government-to-government deal and did not participate in the bidding.

In an affidavit submitted to the DOTC, Maralit and Vitangcol denied the alleged extortion.

The P3.8-billion MRT 3 expansion project involves the acquisition of 48 new trains. Currently, MRT 3 has 73 Czech-made trains.

The MRT 3 was built as a build-lease-transfer project in 1999.

Another Czech firm, CKD Prague, a supplied the 73 trams. CKD was acquired by Siemens and then by Inekon.

For about two years now, Inekon has pushed for a government-to-government contract to provide 52 new light rail vehicles and 21 option cars as well as a refurbishing and maintenance deal for the existing fleet.

The company points out that this is pursuant to the original contract, which provides that the MRT 3 and original equipment manufacturer should undertake capacity expansion after five years. – Aie Balagtas See



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