Spotlight on graft in solar sector
Anti-corruption police reopen investigation of ČEZ activities dating to 2010
Posted: March 6, 2013
Already reeling from troubles with its international operations, Czech energy giant ČEZ is facing a fresh corruption investigation over its purchases of solar power plants in north Bohemia.
The plants were commissioned by ČEZ in the second half of 2010 after it had bought huge solar parks near Ralsko and Mimon from the Amun.Re company for 5 billion Kč ($253.9 million).
Anti-corruption police spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej confirmed the case was reopened at the end of 2012, after being closed at the beginning of that year.
According to Ibehej, the initial decision to shut down the probe came only after anti-corruption investigators had worked intensively on the case for half a year.
"In January 2012, we concluded that in the case there was not any suspicion of a criminal offense, and therefore it was shelved," he revealed March 3.
The anti-corruption police chiefs later checked the case and decided to reopen it, Ibehej added. He said police are now considering launching a criminal prosecution, which would mean a state attorney would supervise the case.
News of the reopened investigation came after Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) said he was "shocked" the authorities had abandoned the case, despite receiving "disturbing" and detailed information from his department's financial and analytical section (FAÚ).
"I am sometimes really shocked about what on one hand can be prosecuted and what on the other hand can be postponed," Kalousek said on Czech Television's Questions of Vaclav Moravec program."
"In the case of Amun.Re, I was deeply shocked by the level of detailed information given to the law enforcement bodies from the FAÚ, and it was shelved."
"The FAÚ is not law enforcement, it is an intelligence organization," Kalousek said, adding his duty in the case of suspected criminal activity is to pass information to the competent authorities.
ČEZ, a majority government-owned utility, did not react to the minister's comments. "We will not comment on it at all," ČEZ spokeswoman Barbora Půlpánová told the Czech News Agency March 3.
Some reports have speculated Amun.Re might be owned by influential lobbyists, because its ownership structure is unknown.
According to Czech Television, lawyers from the former Sachta & Partners law office could be behind the company.
ČEZ is reportedly the biggest recipient of the money that households and firms pay to contribute to the subsidies of renewable energy sources, which led to a boom of solar panels in 2009-10.
Earlier this month, the Energy Regulatory Office (ERÚ) said it wanted prosecutors to file charges against some of its former staff on allegations they set solar power tariffs at levels higher than allowed by law, costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The ERÚ has made a complaint against an unspecified number of former employees.
The issue involves guaranteed feed-in tariffs paid to solar investors out of consumers' electricity bills.
Andrew Greene can be reached at