MANILA, Philippines – For the second time, the Office of the Ombudsman is inviting Ambassador Josef Rychtar of the Czech Republic for an “interview” to “shed light” on his allegations that transport officials tried to extort money from a Czech company to bag a train contract.
Rychtar, who had gone to the media and also submitted an affidavit to a congressional committee looking into the matter, refused to talk to investigators from the Ombudsman the first time they requested him in July 2013.
The Czech envoy has alleged that people from the Aquino administration asked Czech company Inekon Group for $30 million in exchange for ensuring it would get the contract to supply trains to the Metro Manila Rail Transit (MRT) system.
Over time, however, his accounts of who tried to extort had changed – initially claiming it was one of President Benigno Aquino III’s sisters, then later saying it was just ranking officials at the Department of Transportation and Communication, and then later saying it was the sister of MRT general manager Al Vitangcol III.
DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said he met with Rychtar the first time he made the allegation, but the ambassador told yet a different story.
While the Czech company itself denied in September that it tried to strike a deal with Aquino’s relatives, the ambassador revived the controversy this week.
On Thursday, April 10, a letter signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Tuesday was sent to Rychtar.
In July 2013, when the alleged “shakedown” was reported by the Philippine Star, Morales created a special panel of investigators to do field work on “to gather evidence and look into other possible leads not mentioned in the newspaper article,” a statement from her office said Thursday.
Rychtar declined the written request for an interview, dated July 26, 2013, sent by the Assets Investigation Bureau. The special panel has since gathered pertinent documents from government agencies, however.
Separately, the President ordered the National Bureau of Investigation in July last year to look into the allegations.
Last Wednesday, a businessman filed a P30-million complaint against Rychtar for dragging his name into another anomalous MRT contract in an affidavit he submitted to the House of Representatives. Also named respondent is the editor in chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which quoted the ambassador’s affidavit. – Rappler.com