THE Office of the Ombudsman will conduct formal investigation against former Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol III and Wilson de Vera of PH TRAMS Corp. in connection with the alleged anomaly in the P3.76-billion capacity expansion project of MRT-3.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has approved the recommendation of the Field Investigation Office (FIO) to conduct preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication against Vitangcol and de Vera.

Vitangcol and De Vera are facing criminal complaints for violations of Section 3 (b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 7(d) of Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The former MRT-3 general manager is also facing administrative charges for dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service as he allegedly tried to extort money from Czech firm Inekon Group in exchange of bagging the contract to supply trains to MRT-3.

In July 2013, Morales ordered a special team of field investigators to probe the extortion allegation of Inekon Group.

According to a report submitted by the FIO to Morales, a dinner with Inekon representatives took place in July 9, 2012, upon the request of Vitangcol, in a restaurant in Makati City. It was attended by de Vera, Czech Republic Ambassador Josef Rychtar, and Inekon Group representatives Josef Husek (chief executive officer), Manalo Maralit (acting as liaison officer) and a certain Haluon.

The report said that before the dinner ended, Maralit informed the Inekon representatives that Vitangcol wanted to continue with the discussion of the project on the same night. And as agreed upon, the group, with the exception of Vitangcol, proceeded to the residence of Ambassador Rychtar in Forbes Park in Makati City where de Vera indicated that the Inekon would be selected as the supplier of the tram vehicles on the condition that the latter would pay US$30 million, which amount would be later reduced to US$2.5 million.

The report added that on July 10, 2012, a meeting took place between Vitangcol and Inekon representatives at the former's office where Vitangcol categorically asked Inekon representatives whether they agreed with the proposal of De Vera regarding the payment of US$2.5 million in exchange for the award of the MRT-3 project, to which offer the Inekon representatives refused.

A separate investigation was also ordered on reports regarding the MRT-3 interim maintenance contract for 2012-2013 awarded to PH TRAMS Corp. where Vitangcol's alleged uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano, and de Vera are among the incorporators. (Sunnex)