Slovenian police probes alleged bribery in Alstom deal

12th June 2012, Comments 0 comments

Slovenian police said Tuesday they were investigating alleged bribery in a 1.3-billion-euro ($1.62-billion) coal plant project awarded to French energy giant Alstom in 2008.

"In 2006-2008, an official made disputable business decisions that led to the signing in 2008 of a contract with a French company (initially) valued at over 650 million euros," a police statement said.

It did not name the company, but the Termoelektrana Sostanj coal mining project is the only one of this size in Slovenia to be backed by a French company.

The police said that the company paid millions of euros through "fictitious consulting contracts to an intermediate company directly involved in the selection of the French equipment provider" in order to secure the tender.

Slovenian media had reported Tuesday that police searched the home of the former head of the Sostanj plant, Uros Rotnik, who was dismissed in 2010.

Slovenia's anti-corruption commission already issued a report earlier this year alleging widespread irregularities in the 2008 tender awarded to Alstom.

Earlier this month, Slovenian media reported Alstom was ready to pull out of the Sostanj project if parliament did not give it financing guarantees by June 16, although the French company denied such a move.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2010 approved a 200-million-euro loan for the modernisation of the 600-megawatt Termoelektrana Sostanj coal plant, which accounts for a third of Slovenia's electric output.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has also agreed to give a loan of 550 million euros backed by Slovenian state guarantees, which have not yet been approved by parliament.

The project has been criticised by environmentalists opposing fossil fuels and threatening to force a referendum if the two-million-strong country's parliament approves the guarantees.

© 2012 AFP

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