Criminal Complaint Filed Against Environment Minister Over Koper-Divača Rail “Fraud”

By , 27 Feb 2019, 11:50 AM Politics
Criminal Complaint Filed Against Environment Minister Over Koper-Divača Rail “Fraud” Wikimedia: Kabelleger - David Gubler, GNU Free Licence

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STA, 26 February 2019 - A group critical of the government's Koper port rail project has filed a criminal complaint with the police against Environment Minister Jure Leben and several other officials over their role in the scandal around the 2018 scale model tender for the project, the commercial broadcaster POP TV reported on Monday evening.

The group that filed the complaint includes Jože Duhovnik of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering who had proposed an alternative, much cheaper solution for the Koper-Divača rail upgrade back in 2017.

Apart from Leben, who was in charge of the Koper-Divača project at the Infrastructure Ministry in the previous term, the list of those the group says misled the public and caused great damage to public finance includes the former Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič and top officials of the roads and infrastructure agencies.

The leadership of the state-owned company managing the rail investment, 2TDK, and its supervisory board are also on the list along with Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Nina Mauhler.

Duhovnik told POP TV last night that the investment programme for the Koper-Divača project had shown that those in charge had been "systematically misleading the public, fixing and adjusting data" all along.

The group is accusing Leben and company of "grand fraud, misrepresentation of data and misleading of the public", which led to "tremendous financial damage to public finances". They have estimated the damage at EUR 1.5bn-2bn.

Meanwhile, Leben and Gašperšič announced that they would report the group to the police for making a false criminal complaint.

A press release sent out by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning on Tuesday afternoon said Leben and former infrastructure minister were convinced that the complaint was based on "groundless lies and malicious imputations" and was filed with the intention to attract media attention.

Police revealed in mid-February that they were investigating the commission of the scale model of the 27-kilometre track that had been revealed in early 2018 and turned out to be a major PR fiasco for the previous government, to the extent that the government abandoned the promotional activities and refused to pay for the model.

Media also reported of the email correspondence among those involved, purportedly proving that the commission of the scale model was effectively coordinated by a PR agency retained by the ministry to do promotional activities for the rail project.

While there was no smoking gun shown to point the finger at Leben, several emails revealed close coordination by the PR agency, Futura, and the public relations officer at the ministry, Nataša Pelko, who is now in charge of public relations at 2TDK.

Leben pointed his finger at Pelko on several occasions, but yesterday she struck back, according to POP TV. She wrote a letter to the supervisors and the entire leadership of 2TDK, saying she did not act on her own but "exclusively under instruction" from her then bosses, Minister Gašperšič and the project head, Leben.

Pelko says in the letter she was not involved in the talks on the scale model, did not know who the bidders were or who was picked in the end. She also denies having cooperated with Futura.

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