- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 14, 2010


A former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic is accusing the country’s deputy finance minister, who is in charge of fighting corruption, of asking for a bribe two years ago to settle a business dispute.

The Czech prime minister suspended the official Friday and called for a quick investigation into what he called “serious” allegations.

William Cabaniss, the U.S. ambassador in Prague from 2004 to 2006, and Duncan Sellars, his partner in his private business, claimed that Martin Bartak in February 2008 asked for millions of dollars to help them solve a dispute over a $150 million contract to provide trucks to the Czech military. Mr. Bartak denied the charges and told reporters in Prague that he intended to take legal action, which he did not describe.

Mr. Bartak was deputy defense minister from 2006 to 2009. Mr. Cabaniss became chairman of the supervisory board of the Czech truck manufacturing firm Tatra after his term as ambassador, and Mr. Sellars is head of Tatra’s U.S. branch. The dispute involved Tatra’s Czech supplier, Praga. Mr. Bartak discussed the problem with Mr. Cabaniss at a reception at the Czech Embassy in Washington while he was part of an official Czech delegation on a U.S. visit.

“As some point of the conversation, he said for a certain amount of money - I don’t remember the exact amount - the problems between Tatra and Praga can be solved,” Mr. Cabaniss in an interview published Friday in the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes (Young Front Today).

“I didn’t respond. I thought it was a very unusual and out-of-order conversation from someone from the Defense Ministry. I walked away and had no further conversation with him.”

Mr. Sellars told the newspaper that Mr. Bartak wanted “several million dollars” to intervene in the business dispute.

In Prague, a spokesman for Tatra said Mr. Cabaniss and Mr. Sellars are cooperating with Czech police.

Prime Minister Petr Necas told reporters: “A thorough investigation has to be carried out and must be done quickly.”


Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


- Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis of Lithuania, who meets with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Wednesday, he discusses press freedom in Lithuania in a roundtable discussion at the Lithuanian Embassy.

- Christos Aidonis, Greece’s deputy minister for health, nutrition and sports; and Joanna Despotopoulou, president of the Organizing Committee for the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011 in Athens. They attend a reception hosted by Greek Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis and Timothy Shriver, chairman and chief executive officer of the Special Olympics.


c Sebastian Elischer, an Africa analyst at the Hamburg-based German Institute of Global and Area Studies. He discusses government reform efforts in Niger in a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


- Roberto Abdenur, a former deputy foreign minister of Brazil and former ambassador to China and the United States; Marcos Azambuja, also a former deputy foreign minister of Brazil and former ambassador to Argentina and France; and Antonio Carlos Pereira, opinion page editor for the State newspaper in Sao Paulo. They discuss Brazilian foreign policy in a forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

- Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washington times.com.

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