Six Czechs reportedly among those part of privatization scam
Seven people suspected of fraud and money laundering during the privatization of Czech coal-mining company Mostecká uhelná společnost (MUS) were seemingly charged by the Swiss general prosecutor’s office Oct. 23.
A statement from the Swiss Prosecutor’s Office said only, “Official Swiss prosecutors sued seven people suspected of money laundering and economic crime in connection with controlling one of the most important energy companies in the Czech Republic,” though authorities would not identify the company or the individuals.
However, the case is likely connected to the privatization of MUS, now known as Czech Coal, in the late 1990s. Czech police have also been investigating the case since January based on Swiss information after the domestic investigation had been shelved in 2008.
“Based on the information received through legal aid from Switzerland, on Jan 25, 2011, criminal proceedings were started on the basis of the suspicion of the crime of bribery in connection with the sale of the state share in MUS,” said Supreme State Attorney Office spokeswoman Irena Válová.
Detectives are waiting for further information from Switzerland through a legal aid request filed July 15. The case in Switzerland has been ongoing since 2005.
The charged include Czechs Antonín Koláček, Luboš Měkota, Marek Čmejla, Oldřich Klimecký, Petr Kraus, Jiří Diviš and Belgian Jacques de Groot, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) manager, according to reports.
Around 600 million Swiss francs have been frozen in relation to the case. Bern prosecutors said the seven charged are “the directors of the company, together with third-parties,” and that they had put together “a particularly complex structure in different countries, including Switzerland, in order to misappropriate the company’s assets for private purposes”
During MUS’s privatization, money from an MUS fund meant for revitalization of the company was diverted, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD) has reported.
“A significant part of the assets were transferred to Switzerland to be laundered. Some 100 bank accounts have been identified as linked to these activities,” Swiss prosecutors said.
According to MfD, when MUS was privatized, Swiss company Investenergy bought the remaining 46 percent of the company on behalf of Czech company Appian group, Investenergy then sent $5 million (170 million Kč) to an account in Gibraltar. The money was distributed between former Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Robert Sýkora and Jiří Martinek, an aide to former prime minister Stanislav Gross.