Former director of the Forestry Administration of Lány Miloš Balák in a picture taken on June 26, 2019 in the Lánská Obora in Kladensk.
Prague – The court upheld a fine of 870,000 crowns and a two-year ban on the former head of the Lány Forestry Administration, Miloš Balák, for breaching obligations in property management. The verdict is final. But Balák told the Novinky.cz server that he wants to file an appeal. The case concerns the mining of stone in the Lánská nature reserve. Balák was already convicted last year in another case last year, namely for influencing a two hundred million contract. However, then-President Miloš Zeman pardoned him and Balák remained at the head of the contribution organization of the Office of the President of the Republic until the end of last year.
The Central Bohemian Regional Court rejected both Balák's appeal and the public prosecutor's appeal, which sought a harsher sentence, including a two-year term. “We are convinced that the court of first instance punished the defendant more lightly, but not unreasonably mildly. That is why we decided not to interfere with the judgment,” explained the president of the appeals panel, Ladislav Koudelka. “Mr. Balák is essentially a person of integrity and he must be viewed as such. In our opinion, the punishments imposed on him are sufficient in terms of severity,” he subsequently explained to journalists.
“They are corrected in the appeal process gross defects and gross misconduct. If the sentence that is imposed is not disproportionate, then it is a matter for the appellate panel to consider whether or not to interfere with such a sentence. If the sentence is not disproportionately lenient, then in our opinion the court of second instance should not interfere with the sentence . And that's how we behaved,” added Koudelka.
According to the judgment, in 2015 Balák knowingly signed an unfavorable contract for the sale of stone, which he sold to the company Energie – stavební a báňská (ESB) significantly cheaper than its market price. At the same time, he had an expert assessment of the price of the aggregate available to him before signing. He caused damage to the state in the amount of approximately 1.6 million crowns.
The man denies guilt, he has previously described the case as a fabricated political process. He apologized for today's meeting, according to media reports, he is suffering from a serious illness. His successor at the head of the Lány Forestry Administration, Pavel Rus, told Deník N that Balák is on long-term sick leave and therefore cannot be fired. Currently, Balák holds the position of clerk, which today's final verdict allows him to do – the imposed ban on activity does indeed refer to activities in the organizational components of the state, but only in their statutory bodies, i.e. in management. He can be a referee, confirmed the judge when asked by ČTK.
Prosecutor Ondřej Trčka called the sentence unreasonably lenient. According to him, Balák planned the criminal activity long in advance and systematically with the intention of favoring a related company. He acted conspiratorially and did not hesitate to abuse the place of work, i.e. the field, to fulfill his goals – in the belief that he could not be discovered there, because the space used by the president is more protected than other spaces. “At the time the crime was committed, he held a very high and important position,” recalled Trčka. “He hasn't shown the slightest sign of self-reflection or remorse,” he continued. “He is a person of integrity, which he did not deserve with his proper life,” he added, alluding to the presidential pardon.
Balák's lawyer, Jan Staněk, requested that the entire matter be returned to the Kladno District Court for a new hearing. According to him, it cannot be concluded from the evidence that Balák caused damage to the property of the Lána Forestry Administration. The second defense attorney, Tomáš Sokol, described the Kladno court's judgment as very incomprehensible and easily questionable. He also pointed out that the Lány Forestry Administration did not apply for compensation. Sokol did not want to comment on whether Balák will file an appeal to the Supreme Court, or the state of health of the client.
In the afternoon, Balák told the News that there was no damage and there was no evidence or witness statements to convict him. He wants to consult with his legal representatives about the appeal first, but he is convinced that he will file it. “I believe that in any democratic society there are ways to get your rights legally,” he told the server.
In the case of the contract for securing and draining the slopes at the Klíčava water reservoir, Zeman justified the pardon by saying that Balák did not enrich himself or cause any damage to the national economy. He declared Balák a person of integrity, with whose work he is very satisfied. According to the president, he was convicted because of where he worked. The man was pardoned not only a three-year prison sentence, but also a fine of 1.8 million crowns and a four-year ban on activities. In the current trial, he could not pardon Balák, because the final verdict was not handed down until after Zeman's death at the Castle, and in order to stop the criminal prosecution earlier, Zeman would need to obtain the co-signature of the Prime Minister.
In the first case last year, the company ESB was also sentenced to three years in prison prohibition of participation in public contracts. President Zeman pardoned her for the rest of her sentence with a pardon he granted the day before the end of his mandate. According to the commercial register, hockey player Jaromír Jágr has been the vice-chairman of the ESB board since February 2021, and his father was previously on the board.
Balák held the post of director of the forest administration since February 2014, Rus replaced him at the beginning of this year. He subsequently withdrew Balák's request for permission for further stone mining in the area of the former quarry.