In 2013 Croatia sent its MiG-21 fighters for an overhaul to Ukraine but now fears it may not have gotten the same planes back
A big scandal is shaking up Croatia these days. Here's the low-down. In 2013 Croatia paid $20 million to Ukraine to refurbish its seven MiG-21 fighters and to purchase a further five which would likewise be overhauled.
Ukraine finished deliveries of the 12 fighters one year behind the schedule in July 2015.
However, eight months after receiving the refurbished planes Croatia says that of the twelve planes only three remain flight-worthy and five have been pulled out of service altogether.
Now the Croatian media is revealing that entire deal was shady from the start.
Firstly the Ukrainians offered a price that was a whooping 40% better than that of their Romanian competitors.
Next, when examining the five newly-purchased planes the Croats discovered that the serial numbers have been stamped over and do not correspond to the identification numbers of the aircraft that Ukraine originally offered.
The planes that Croatia actually received are far older, and either correspond to Yemeni MiG-21s that Yemen sent to Ukraine for an overhaul but then refused to accept delivery of on the account of shoddy work, or else planes that have been cobbled together from parts purchased from all over the world.
Moreover, Croatian media is now reporting that Croatian military police investigators believe the documentation on the overhaul of the seven Croatian MiGs was faked and that no overhaul work has been done on those planes at all.
In fact, Croats now fear they may not have even received the same seven planes they sent to Ukraine back but different, older planes.
This is all the more critical for the Croats since the twelve MiG-21s represent the entire supersonic fleet of the Croatian Air Force. Due to the failed overhaul Croatia is now without a flight-worthy fighter force of any kind.
The most scandalous aspect of the story for the local media is that the Croatian defense ministry kept the true state of affairs of its fighter force under wraps for so long.
The inescapable conclusion is that this was done because shedding light on the irresponsible conduct of the Ukrainians would have raised questions as to why they were awarded the job in the first place.
Actually the first allegations that Croatian defense chiefs had made an underhanded deal were made in mid 2014, after a crash of one of the MiG-21s, but went unheard at the time.
Regardless of the integrity of the Croat officials here, the Ukraine defense industry isn't exactly making a name for itself here, either.
Bribing foreign functionaries to win contracts is one thing. But doing such shoddy work afterwards as to leave your partners in crime hanging like this is another. As they say: No honor among thieves.