Czech corruption scandal embroils former adviser

* Contract involved purchases of vehicles from Austria

* U.S. document leaked by Wikileaks had mentioned suspect

* Graft has dominated public debate in Czech

PRAGUE, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The Czech republic's long-runningcorruption scandal among high officials boiled up again onMonday when Czech police brought charges against a closeassociate of a former prime minister over a deal to buy armouredpersonnel carriers.

Graft among the political class has dominated public debatein the central European country and hurt the popularity of themain political parties.

The centre-right cabinet of Prime Minister Petr Necas, inpower since 2010, has beefed-up legislation on publicprocurement and appointed new prosecutors who have taken a moreaggressive stance, bringing charges against current and formerplayers in both government and opposition camps.

High State Attorney Lucie Bradacova said police have chargedMarek Dalik, an adviser to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek duringhis term in 2006-2009, with fraud in relation to thegovernment's purchase of 107 Pandur armed personnel carriersfrom Austria in 2009 for 14.4 billion crowns ($756.34 million).

"The corruption and financial crime unit has detained...oneperson in connection with the Pandur case," Bradacova told CzechTelevision on Monday, identifying the person as Dalik.

Earlier documents leaked to Czech media had alleged that amanager for Austrian firm Steyr, a unit of U.S. firm GeneralDynamics that makes the carriers, told investigators thatDalik asked for a bribe of 18 million euros to secure the deal.

A U.S. embassy cable leaked by Wikileaks last year alsocited a Steyr official as saying Dalik had sought a bribe.

Dalik, who faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted, hadearlier d enied he had sought any bribes. Topolanek has alsodenied any irregular procedures in the contract.

A Steyr spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this year, police charged Governor of CentralBohemia David Rath, from the opposition Social Democrats, withtaking bribes after catching him with a box containing 7 millioncrowns, which they say was a bribe for a construction contract.

The parliament has stripped the immunity of former defenceminister Vlasta Parkanova, suspected of signing an unfavourablypriced deal to buy military transport planes. Another formerdefence minister, Martin Bartak, has been charged with allegedlydemanding bribes in a case involving the purchase of armytrucks.

All deny any wrongdoing.

Last week, Labour Minister Jaromir Drabek said he wouldresign at the end of October after his deputy was charged withcorruption.

($1 = 19.0391 Czech crowns)

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka, additional reporting by GeorginaProdhan in Vienna; Editing by Michael Roddy)


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