What happened to the Croatian planes that were refurbished in Ukraine?
According to a report by Jutarnji list on March 22, 2016, Croatia’s military police is currently conducting a major investigation in the refurbishment of MiG-21s which were bought and refurbished in Ukraine. The investigation has allegedly proven many irregularities and there is serious suspicion that bribe was paid.
The refurbished MiG-21s were handed over to Croatian Air Force in July 2015 and ever since the planes arrived, problems started to emerge. Eight months later, the Air Force has just three planes available for operations, while five are not operational. According to sources close to the investigation, the investigators found that serial numbers on the chassis of the planes have been changed and that the parts which were changed do not match the ones listed in the documents raising serious suspicion that the planes could be 5 years older than their accompanying documentation claims.
Furthermore, sources claim that the refurbishment might not have been conducted at all and that this was one of the reasons why the planes, signed off by former Defence minister Kotromanović kept breaking down: “We do not know if the planes that were sent to Ukraine for refurbishment are the same ones that came back“ the source added. When first suspicions were raised in 2015 the Defence Ministry did not comment and the same thing is happening now, but considering new Minister’s only been in power for a few months, we’re guessing he hasn’t had a chance to get acquainted with the problem yet.
According to Jutarnji List, Croatian Ministry of Defence asked for the funds from the State budget which was the same amount as the Ukrainian offer even before the company was selected through a public tender. The article also claims that an Israeli company tried to bid for the job but they were declined with an explanation that the public procurement process already started and that negotiations are already in place with a Ukrainian and a Romanian company.
A contract that was signed lists the purchase of 8 MiGs that were in Ukraine and a refurbishment of all 12 planes (7 were already owned by the Croatian Ministry of Defence). Even at that time, the ownership of those 5 planes was questionable since only one year earlier, Ukraine tried to sell Croatia 8 MiGs that were apparently owned by Yemen and not Ukraine. Yemeni government sent a letter to the Ministry stating that the planes are indeed theirs, but the Ministry declared the letter a fake.
Now it seems that even the 5 planes that Croatia did end up buying from Ukraine were put together using parts from all over the world and there is a suspicion that the hull is Bulgarian, wings from Algeria while the gas tanks had Russian insignia on them. Sources state that the hulls are probably from the planes Bulgaria reported to NATO as destroyed. The entire refurbishment procedure in Ukraine was very strange, to say the least if we know that Croatian pilots were never allowed to test the planes in all flight regimes, even though the contract clearly stated that the planes would not be paid unless all tests were conducted-
We will keep you posted on all developments since we believe many other shady dealings will be uncovered as time passes.