Czech FinMin seeks MUS sale annulment, Kč 6.8 bln in damages

The Czech state failed to join in Swiss criminal proceedings over MUS due to delays, alleged obstruction by prosecutors and other authorities

The Czech Ministry of Finance is seeking Kč 6.8 billion in damages from six former managers of the mining company Mostecké uhelné společnost (MUS) whom anticorruption police have charged with stripping assets from and using the money to take over the company.

The ministry also wants to have the controversial privatization of MUS, since renamed Czech Coal, annulled, the daily Lidové noviny reported Friday, citing a criminal complaint filed with the High Attorney’s Office in Olomouc.

The charges against the six former managers of MUS include abuse of information, money laundering and fraud. The Czech managers (Antonín Koláček, Oldřich Klimecký, Luboš Měkota, Marek Čmejla, Petr Kraus and Jiří Diviš) and Belgian national Jacques de Groote are alleged to have diverted some $150 million (over Kč 3 billion) in MUS funds in 1998 that should have been used for covering ecological damages during mining and using the money in 1999 to buy a stake in the company.

Swiss authorities, who have been investigating the case since 2005, have said that much of the money was transferred to Switzerland to be laundered. The Czech Republic has failed to join the Swiss criminal proceedings due to delays and alleged willful obstruction by individual prosecutors and other authorities; Czech police shelved a case investigating the MUS privatization in 2008.

The Swiss company Investenergy, acting on behalf of controversial Appian Group, brought the Czech state’s remaining 46 percent stake in MUS in 1999 for Kč 650 million although it was worth some Kč 4 billion, Lidové noviny said.

The company then sent millions of dollars to a Gibraltar account that Pavel Musela, a Czech arms trader and lobbyist close to former Social Democrat (ČSSD) prime minister Stanislav Gross, had access to.

Money was then distributed, allegedly to former Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Robert Sýkora, and Gross’ adviser Jiří Martinek.