Prosecutor: The state did not know all the facts when selling Mostecká uhelná

Prosecutor: The state did not know all the facts when selling Mostecká uhelná

State representative: State did not know Vscaron when selling Mosteck coal ;echna fakta

Illustrative photo – Former manager of the Mostecká uhelná společností (MUS) Antonio Koláček in a picture from December 4, 2018.

Prague – The state sold its shares in the Mostecká coal company (MUS), without knowing all the decisive facts. This was told to ČTK by state representative Radek Bartoš, who in today's closing speech proposed the confiscation of assets, an unconditional prison sentence and a ban on business management for former MUS managers Antonio Koláček and Oldřich Klimecký. The sale of the minority share was approved in 1999 by the government of Miloš Zeman. But according to Bartoš, she did not know that she was not actually selling the shares to a foreign investor, but to MUS managers. Men deny it.

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All members of Zeman's Social Democratic cabinet raised their hands for the sale of the state's stake in the mining company to Investenergy. “The state sold these shares without knowing that they would be paid for not with the foreign investor's own money, but with money withdrawn from MUS, and that managers from MUS are actually behind this whole event,” Bartoš explained, explaining why he accuses Koláček and Klimecký of defrauding the state with damage in the amount of approximately 2.38 billion crowns.

According to Bartoš, the sale was preceded by the fact that Koláček and Klimecký abused their position in MUS. “I see the essence of the case in the fact that the defendants acquired shares for free and took control of the company for MUS money, which they put at their disposal through other entities,” explained the public prosecutor.

While Klimecký only participated in the opening of the main trial, Koláček was never absent from the Prague municipal court and welcomed the Czech trial as an opportunity to clear his name after he was found guilty in Switzerland of withdrawing money from MUS. Among other things, he defends himself by saying that the state knew to whom he was selling the share, or that he did not care because he wanted to get rid of the share in the mining company. According to him, no fraud took place.

“There were certain negative factors at the Mostecká coal company that could have contributed to the government's decision to get rid of such a problem,” Bartoš admitted today when asked by ČTK. “On the other hand, it wasn't just a collection of negatives – the company was obviously creditworthy, which is evident from all the sums that the defendants were able to withdraw from the company for their own benefit,” he pointed out.

In the main the trial, which lasted almost four and a half years, was also testified by the now former president Zeman and his former ministers. Zeman defended privatization. According to Miroslav Grégr, who was in charge of the industry and promoted the direct sale of the state's share in MUS instead of a competition, it was no secret in the backroom that the MUS management was striving for exclusive ownership of the company. But he stated that he did not know about the connection between Investenergy and the defendant managers.

“The government may have had certain suspicions that appeared in 1998 about how much and if Antonín Koláček and possibly other persons from MUS are behind the alleged foreign applicants,” said the prosecutor.

“Nevertheless, these suspicions were not substantiated in any relevant way until the time of the sale of the shares, until the time of the government's decision. Neither the Security Information Service nor the Police of the Czech Republic found anything more detailed in this regard. The government was interested in the result of their investigation, had their reports and there was nothing she could build on beyond what was discussed in public,” emphasized Bartoš.

The closing arguments will continue at the Prague Municipal Court on Wednesday, when Koláček could also speak. It is not yet clear when the court will issue a verdict. The dates of the main trial are currently set for the end of this week and for the week of June 12.

The plaintiff is asking for 7.5 years in prison and forfeiture of property for Koláček in the MUS case

The public prosecutor is asking for 7.5 years in prison, the forfeiture of all assets and a five-year ban on the management of companies for the former manager of the Mostá Coal Company (MUS) Antoni Koláček. In today's closing speech at the court, he proposed a prison sentence of five to 7.5 years for another manager, Oldřich Klimecký. The indictment claims that the men controlled the company with its own money and that during its subsequent privatization they fraudulently caused damage to the state in the amount of over two billion crowns. The court completed extensive evidence in the case from the 1990s today, more than four years after the start of the trial.

According to public prosecutor Radek Bartoš, Koláček and Klimecký committed fraud on the one hand, and the criminal offense of abuse of position in business relations on the other. “The defendants were bragging about how they saved the Mostecká coal company. (…) I do not consider these facts decisive for the assessment of the case. They were primarily concerned with their own enrichment,” he stated at the Prague Municipal Court. He considers Koláčka to be the leader of criminal activity. However, a five-year ban on acting in the statutory bodies of companies and the forfeiture of secured property is also required for Klimecký.

“The defendants siphoned money from MUS under the pretext of appreciation abroad. They thus covertly bought MUS mainly with its own money. The apparent legality of individual flows does not rule out their illegality when all circumstances are taken into account. They concealed their actions with a complex structure of entities abroad,” described Bartoš. He emphasized that the defendants' criminal liability is not time-barred.

Regarding the sentencing proposals, the public prosecutor said that he took into account the previous integrity of the defendants and also the fact that a long time had passed since the committed acts. On the contrary, he identified as aggravating circumstances the fact that the men committed criminal activity out of greed and after premeditation.

Bartoš insists that the managers Koláček, Klimecký, Jiří Diviš, Marek Čmejla and Petr Kraus created a confusing structure of companies in order to show that they owned or controlled the majority of MUS shares from May 1998 at the latest. They then allegedly waited until the share price fell and bought back his share from the state through Investenergy at a significantly lower price. The amount of damage was originally set by the prosecution at 3.2 billion crowns, but today, based on an expert opinion on the price of the minority stake, the public prosecutor has recalculated it to approximately 2.38 billion crowns.

“Investenergy presented itself as a Swiss investment and consulting company. But it was not a company of prominent Swiss consultants and investors, it was a project of Messrs. Koláček and Klimecký,” declared Bartoš. Koláček defends himself, among other things, by saying that no one has ever been robbed in connection with MUS. He had previously drawn attention to the fact that the state did not register any damage in connection with MUS until 2011. According to him, the pressure to criminalize ex-managers was only exerted by Public Affairs under the leadership of Vít Bárta.

The sale of the state share in MUS to Investenergy was unanimously approved in July 1999 by the government of later President Miloš Zeman. According to the prosecutor, Investenergy paid for the share with money that came directly from the coal company from which the defendants had previously siphoned it. The managers deny that they concealed from the government that they would be the real purchaser of the shares and that they would pay for the stake with money from the mining company they secretly controlled. According to them, the state knew who it was selling to, or rather it didn't care because it wanted to get rid of the stake.

Former President Miloš Zeman and a number of former ministers of his government, including the current President of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský and ex-Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla, also appeared among the witnesses in the main trial. Zeman defended the sale of the state share in court. According to him, MUS was not a strategic company and the government was happy to get rid of the minority stake. 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. But he admitted that it was no secret in the backroom that the MUS management was striving for sole ownership of the company.

The public prosecutor today questioned the performance of some former members of Zeman's cabinet. “At the time of the statement, they were still public figures, and it is therefore logical that they defended their decision at the time. This must be taken into account when evaluating some statements,” he noted.

The last defendant in the Czech branch of the case is a former deputy Minister of Industry Robert Sýkora, for accepting a bribe. Today, 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.

The Czech prosecution initially faced eight people, but the manager and billionaire Luboš Měkota he died in 2013 and interrupted the prosecution of former lobbyist and arms dealer Pavel Musela, accused of bribing the prosecutor, for health reasons. The indictment thus aimed at six people. However, the court gradually stopped the prosecution of Kraus, Čmejla and Diviš, because they began to serve the 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 were eventually given conditions and fines.