• Czech envoy spills beans on MRT extort probe

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    Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar is fully cooperating with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in its probe of the attempt of some officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to extort $30 million from a Czech company.

    Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Rychtar has provided the NBI information about the attempted shakedown on Inekon, which expressed interest in supplying coaches for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) expansion project.

    The DOTC has started its own investigation into the controversy.

    De Lima refused to disclose the information provided by the ambassador to NBI investigators, but she admitted that Rychtar reiterated his earlier claim that MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol was involved in the extort try. Vitangcol went on a leave of absence two weeks ago to give the DOTC a free hand in its investigation of the case.

    The Justice chief said the NBI will also invite Vitangcol.

    “GM Vitangcol and others implicated (by the ambassador) will be summoned by the NBI in due time,” De Lima told reporters.

    She said the NBI was ordered “to ascertain the facts and the truth and determine accountability, if warranted.”

    News reports, first published by The Manila Times, revealed that officials of the DOTC, MRT and the Czech firm met during the time of Secretary Manuel Roxas.

    Rychtar said that several officials of the DOTC asked $30 million from Inekon in exchange for the MRT contract. When Inekon rejected the demand, the officials lowered the amount to $2 million.

    The ambassador said he met with Vitangcol’s group in Makati and Quezon cities, but the MRT chief denied it.

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