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What Went Before: Alleged extortion attempt at MRT bidding

/ 04:05 AM April 05, 2014

In July 2013, Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar accused Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) officials led by Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol III of attempting to extort $30 million (about P1.3 billion) from the Czech train manufacturer Inekon Group in exchange for a P3.77-billion contract to expand the capacity of the mass rail system on Edsa.

According to Rychtar, Inekon was blacklisted after rejecting the bribe demand.

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Rychtar said the extortion attempt was made when Manuel Roxas II was the DOTC head. Roxas is now secretary of the interior. His handpicked officials in the DOTC have been retained by his successor, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya.

Both Roxas and Abaya are high-ranking officials of the ruling Liberal Party.

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Abaya said his office was investigating the alleged extortion attempt and denied that Inekon had been blacklisted.

Vitangcol has also denied the attempted extortion and took a leave of absence to give way to an investigation.

Also in July, President Aquino ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the allegation. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the President directed the NBI to conduct an investigation during the height of the controversy that at one point had implicated Mr. Aquino’s sister Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz and her husband Eldon Cruz.

The Cruzes reportedly flew to Prague in 2011 for a social visit on the invitation of Rychtar and met with Czech businessmen there.

In September 2013, Rychtar cleared Aquino’s relatives of any involvement in the alleged attempt to extort money from Inekon.

The P3.77-billion contract, which was auctioned off on June 2013, was for the addition of 48 cars to MRT’s 73-car fleet to ease passenger congestion.

A state-owned Chinese company, CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock, which bid P3.76 billion, underwent “postqualification” after meeting all eligibility requirements.

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Another Chinese company, CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. Ltd., was disqualified while three other groups, including Inekon and Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., did not submit bids at all, the DOTC said.

Source: Inquirer Archives

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TAGS: al vitangcol iii, Department of Transportation and Communications, DoTC, extortion, Inekon Group, Josef Rychtar, Joseph Abaya, Manuel Roxas II, Metro Rail Transit, MRT
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