Ex-MRT chief Vitangcol indicted for $30M extort try
The Ombudsman has indicted former Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol for two counts of graft over the alleged extortion try on Czech firm Inekon in exchange for contracts with the railway system.
In a statement on Monday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said she has ordered the filing of graft charges or violations of Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against Vitangcol, who was earlier sacked at the height of the extort try scandal, as well as his purported envoy businessman Wilson De Vera.
During the 2013 midterm elections, De Vera was a mayoral candidate in Pangasinan under the Liberal Party but he lost.
The Ombudsman said Vitangcol’s first graft charge stemmed from allegations that he attempted to extort $30 million from Inekon in exchange for contracts for the supply for additional light rail vehicles and maintenance of the MRT-3 in connection with the P3.7 billion MRT-3 expansion project in 2012.
Ombudsman investigation showed that Vitangcol sent his envoy De Vera to demand the payment of $30 million, later reduced to $2.5 million, for the Inekon to be awarded the contract.
Vitangcol and De Vera were accused of extorting $30 million from Inekon Group CEO and chair Josef Husek at the residence of then Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar in exchange for granting Inekon the P3.7-billion contract to supply 48 coaches for the MRT 3 expansion. The money was later reduced to $2.5 million.
Inekon turned down the extort try.
Meanwhile, Vitangcol and De Vera’s second graft charge stemmed from the allegation that they conspired and insisted for Inekon to sign a joint venture agreement for the maintenance contract under a 60-40 percent sharing scheme with a group of persons which included De Vera, an incorporator of the firm Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH-Trams).
After weighing in the testimonies by Rychtar and Husek, as well as the conflicting statements by Vitangcol and De Vera, Ombudsman Morales said the “totality of x x x circumstances, taken together with the affirmative declarations of complainant’s witnesses” would show that Vitangcol attempted to extort Inekon in exchange for the contract.
The Ombudsman also found Vitangcol guilty of the administrative offenses of Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty and Unlawful Solicitation, and was ordered dismissed from service and perpetually barred from government with his retirement benefits forfeited.
Due to Vitangcol’s separation from the service, the penalty of dismissal is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s one year salary.
In his affidavit submitted to the House of Representatives which investigated the alleged extort try, Husek said he and Rychtar met De Vera in July 2012 when De Vera proposed that Inekon pay $30 million for the company to be selected the supplier of MRT coaches.
When Inekon turned down the offer, De Vera returned and proposed instead a 60-40 joint venture between Inekon and a group of incorporators selected by Vitangcol for the maintenance contract of the MRT.
The MRT maintenance contract with Sumitomo was then set to expire in Oct. 2012.
The maintenance contract was later awarded without public bidding to PH Trams-CB&T, a graft-ridden contract which gave Vitangcol his first graft case.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation and Communications bid out the contract for the 48 new coaches and awarded it to China’s CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock.
Vitangcol is facing graft before the Ombudsman for irregularly awarding without public bidding the MRT-3 maintenance contract to PH Trams-CB&T joint venture where his uncle-in-law Arturo Soriano is an incorporator.
Vitangcol had decried selective justice, adding that the Ombudsman cleared from the charges Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya even though he approved the anomalous contract to PH Trams.
Vitangcol was sacked by the Department of Transportation and Communications on Aug. 2014 after he was accused of conflict of interest when he awarded a contract to the firm of his wife’s uncle. JE
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