Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Man from Douglas' in Czech News Rumors of Bribery, Skulduggery Cloud Talk of Sales to NATO

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Man from Douglas' in Czech News Rumors of Bribery, Skulduggery Cloud Talk of Sales to NATO

Article excerpt

A McDonnell Douglas consultant has become front-page news in the Czech Republic, amid allegations that he bribed a member of Parliament and misrepresented himself as having U.S. government ties.

Thomas C. Stewart of Oregon, who was decorated for flying missions during the Persian Gulf War as a Navy Reserve commander, has worked for McDonnell since last May, trying to help sell F/A-18 fighter jets to the Czech Republic's armed forces.

With the fall of communism, the Czech Republic and other former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe have become markets for Western technology. Consultants like Stewart use their contacts to help ease the way through bureaucracies. But the St. Louis-based firm is reaping attention that it would rather avoid, such as these recent headlines in Prague: "Beware of the Man From Douglas" and "McDonnell Douglas Bid Clouded by FBI Allegations." Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense, now with the Brookings Institution in Washington, said: "Can it hurt McDonnell Douglas? Sure it can. Every time there's a bribery allegation, it causes problems." Likely expansion of NATO to include these emerging democracies makes them key for U.S. firms, Korb said, because the countries would need "equipment standardized with ours." Asked whether the allegations would hurt McDonnell, which does one-third of its business overseas, company spokesman Larry McCracken said: "We have high ethical business standards that all of our consultants agree to adhere to as part of our contract. We have nothing to indicate that Mr. Stewart has deviated from any of these standards in his work for us. "We look forward to establishing a long relationship with the Czech government and Czech industry," McCracken added. "We're always looking for opportunities. . . . There are developing markets in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland that are looking to modernize and are seeking more ties with the West." McDonnell has opened offices in all three countries and hopes to sell 30 Hornets apiece in Czech and Hungarian deals, and 50 to Poland. McDonnell is competing with Lockheed Martin and others. McCracken said he wasn't sure whether McDonnell knew of the allegations when it hired Stewart. FBI's Unsigned Report The case has sparked "extensive publicity" in the Czech Republic, the prime minister's spokesman, Ivo Strejzek, said from Prague. Some articles tend to support Stewart's contention that he has been wrongly accused. Stewart, president of the Cort MacKenzie investment banking firm in suburban Portland, blames the FBI and wants an apology. He contends that his problems stem from an eight-page unsigned document sent by the FBI's Portland office to Czech officials last year and leaked to Prague newspapers. A copy was obtained from Czech sources. It tells a colorful tale of bravado and intrigue. The eight pages paint Stewart as a braggart who used high-level contacts, even if it meant exaggerating his own importance or endangering others. The FBI said that when Stewart met Portland businessman Bruno Amicci in 1994, Stewart portrayed himself as moving "in influential circles" and advising British and Chinese defense officials. According to the FBI document, Stewart proposed a business relationship with Amicci, who ran Triad International with a Czech business partner named Ludek Vychodil, now chief of staff to the prime minister. …

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