The Seeming Contradiction of Finland’s Patria Ruling

Yesterday saw a Finnish court rule on its slice of the Patria Affair and acquit former executives of the Finnish defense firm of charges of bribery in connection with a military procurement contract in Slovenia. The case is one which has managed to periodically convulse Slovene politics since around 2008, and it shows no signs of disappearing any time soon.

The short version is this: seeking to upgrade its stock of armored personnel carriers, Slovenia signed a deal in 2006 with the Finnish defense firm Patria to supply 135 of their Armored Modular Vehicles. In 2008 a Finnish broadcaster released reports claiming Patria executives had paid substantial bribes to top Slovene officials, including then-Prime Minister Janez Jansa, in order to secure the contract. In 2013, Jansa was found guilty of soliciting bribes and sentenced to two years in prison. In response, “[Jansa] said the charges were politically motivated and that he would appeal.”*

But crucially, “The three countries involved in the Patria/Slovenia deal have agreed amongst themselves how to deal with the legal fallout. Prosecutors in Finland, Slovenia and Austria agreed that each state will determine how to rule in regard to its own citizens.”

So you wind up with the slightly bizarre spectacle of the Slovenes involved in the case being found guilty of bribery while their Finnish counterparts and alleged bribers go free. To be fair, Jansa appears to have been convicted for soliciting bribes, not necessarily for actually receiving them. So I suppose it’s possible he and his co-defendants sat down with Patria, asked for kickbacks, and the Finnish executives told them to piss off. But it doesn’t look like that’s what happened. First, if you’re the Finnish executive in that scenario, it would be a little perverse if not paying a bribe got you brought up on charges of…paying a bribe. Second, the prosecutor in the Finnish case charged the defendants with paying bribes. The Finnish acquittal then creates the superficial appearance of Jansa & Co. being convicted of receiving bribes their bribers did not pay.

I don’t actually think this is a fair description of what happened, and I don’t think the seemingly contradictory results confirm Jansa’s paranoia-infused claims of a vast political conspiracy against him. If Patria tells us anything, it probably says more about the effects of jurisdictional variance in procedure, or standards of evidence, or the available evidence, than anything else.

*See here for an excellent summary of the verdict’s immediate political ramifications