The former manager of the Mostecká uhelná společností (MUS) Antonio Koláček in a picture taken on December 4, 2018.
Prague – The former manager of the Mostecká uhelná společnost (MUS) Antonio Koláček in his closing speech in court today, he stated that he did not receive an extra crown during the privatization of the mining company. He emphasized that his intention was to save MUS from extinction and stabilize it. The public prosecutor insists that Koláček and the former general manager of MUS Oldřich Klimecký abused their position to control the company and then in 1999 defrauded the government of Miloš Zeman, who had no idea that he was also selling them a state minority stake in the mining company. The court will announce its verdict on June 12.
Koláček faces up to ten years in prison. The indictment asks for the forfeiture of all property, 7.5 years behind bars and a five-year ban on managing companies. “I can't even imagine that I should lose everything,” the sixty-three-year-old man told reporters at the Prague Municipal Court. “This is cruelty, nothing but cruelty,” he commented on the length of the proposed prison term.
“During the privatization of MUS, I never received an extra crown, apart from my monthly remuneration for working in MUS. And the only money I received in addition was the money from the sale of MUS shares after MUS and Messrs. (Peter) Pudil, (Vasil) They sold Bobela and (Luboš) Měkotou to Mr. (Pavlo) Tykač, and Mr. Pudil and Bobela managed to steal a large part of the money from me because I was too trusting,” Koláček told the court panel. He arrived for his performance in a tuxedo, opening his speech with a few religious quotes and ending it with a recitation of Rudyard Kipling's poem When.
The manager criticized that the investigators divided former friends and colleagues from MUS into good and bad. “The state representative did not take into account the method of collective decision-making and the principle of collective responsibility of the entire MUS board of directors,” he said.
“As we Buddhists say: nothing happens without a cause. (…) The main reason why I am standing here today is indeed hunger and greed. Only the prosecutor did not notice whose hunger it really is,” Koláček declared and pointed precisely on former colleagues Pudil and Bobela, who have the status of witnesses in the case. “The whole time they were protected by the police and the High Prosecutor's Office in Olomouc, even though they were deep friends with Mr. (Tomáš) Pitre, (František) Mrázek and their gang,” Koláček recalled about other controversial businessmen of the 1990s.
State representative Radek Bartoš responded by saying that Pudil and Bobela never figured in foreign structures that controlled MUS shares. “They were never in any companies based on the Isle of Mann, they weren't in Investenergy and the like. Their assets only come from the management privatization in 2005 and that's just a different story,” he told reporters.
In the Swiss branch of the case, Pudil and Bobela claimed to be the injured party. “By doing so, they gave Switzerland what they had been missing all along. They provided them with the damage and victim that they absolutely needed so that they could condemn us and keep the money deposited there,” says Koláček, who was sentenced to 52 months in prison by Switzerland in 2013. He did not go to prison there – he argued, among other things, that he wanted to defend himself personally before a Czech court.
Koláček admitted to journalists today that he asked himself several times whether it would be easier for him to serve the sentence in Switzerland. “Maybe I should have done it. My body has told me before that I should go to that Swiss prison, but my soul wouldn't let me go there because the truth wouldn't get out. I would have to stay with that wrong for the rest of my life, and I he didn't want to,” he explained.
Eighty-three-year-old co-defendant Klimecký is not participating in the trial. Through his lawyer, he said that he did not understand the indictment, that he was confused by it, and that he did not remember anything about what he was accused of. He considers the privatization of MUS to be a successful event that multiplied the company's economic performance and contributed to social peace in the region.
His lawyer Pavel Kavinek added that Klimecký is one of the greatest scientific capacities in the field of brown coal by education and experience, not an economist or a banker. “He did not actively participate in the financial processes because he did not understand them,” the lawyer pointed out, recalling that the MUS board was a multi-member body. “If the prosecution wasn't biased, they would have to put all the board members on the dock,” he said. The public prosecutor wants to send Klimecký to prison for five to 7.5 years, which the lawyer called a life sentence due to the age of his client.
The indictment alleges that the men controlled MUS with its own money after siphoning off money from it under the guise of making gains abroad. By creating a confusing corporate structure, they shot that they owned or controlled the majority of MUS shares from May 1998 at the latest. After that, they allegedly waited until the price of the shares fell, and bought back his share in the mines from the state through the company Investenergy for a significantly lower price – specifically for 650 million crowns. The prosecutor estimated the damage caused to the state at approximately 2.38 billion crowns. Nevertheless, the state filed a claim in the criminal proceedings for damages in the amount of 8.6 billion, which it described as the original market value of MUS.
Zeman's government unanimously approved the sale of 46 percent of MUS shares. Cabinet members have testified as witnesses in court in the past. Zeman defended the sale of the state share – according to him, MUS was not a strategic company and the government was happy to get rid of the minority share. Former Industry Minister Miroslav Grégr, who pushed for a direct sale of the state share instead of a competition, said he was unaware of the connection between Investenergy and the indicted managers. He admitted, however, that it was no secret in the backroom that the MUS management was striving for exclusive ownership of the company.
The Czech prosecution initially faced eight people, but Měkota died in 2013 and stopped the prosecution of former lobbyist and arms dealer Pavel Musela plaintiff for health reasons. The indictment thus targeted six people connected to MUS. The court gradually stopped the prosecution of Petr Kraus, Marek Čmejla and Jiří Diviš, because they began to serve sentences imposed earlier in the Swiss branch of the case, which, in addition to the control of MUS, related to money laundering. Kraus went to prison in Switzerland, Čmejla and Diviš eventually received terms and fines there.
The last defendant is the former Deputy Minister of Industry Robert Sýkora, for accepting a bribe in connection with the preparation of documents for the government's decision on the sale share in MUS. The public prosecutor proposed for him a sentence of less than half the rate, which is five years, a fine of 4.5 million crowns and a ban on working in the state administration. Sýkora is not going to the main trial, his lawyer proposed to the court that the indictment be acquitted.