Public Affairs (VV) chairman Radek John says Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) and Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (ODS) should be blamed for the Czech comedy of errors over coal miner MUS
The chairman of the smallest party in the current center-right Czech government, Public Affairs (VV), has blamed ministries headed by its larger coalition partners, the Civic Democrats (ODS) and TOP 09, for the country’s failure to take part in Swiss criminal proceedings centered on suspected fraud and laundering of billions of crowns from a Czech mining company.
VV chairman Radek John said the party’s own investigation of the administrative “ping pong” surrounding Swiss attempts to get the Czechs to sign up to the process involving criminal prosecution of former managers of the Mostecká uhelná společnost (MUS) coal company showed serious mistakes made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice.
“We have suspicions that the ministries of foreign affairs and justice through half of 2010 made a significant mistake when they failed to inform the responsible ministry, the Ministry of Finance, that the Swiss were asking us to make a demand for damages,” John said, listing a series of dates and communications between Swiss authorities and the ministries which were not followed up properly.
‘We have suspicions that the ministries of foreign affairs and justice through half of 2010 made a significant mistake when they failed to inform the responsible ministry, the Ministry of Finance, that the Swiss were asking us to make a demand for damages.’
John’s comments in a news conference on Friday — while attempting to burnish his party’s tarnished public image as a fighter against corruption and for justice — will not play out well with Public Affairs’ coalition colleagues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is headed by TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg and the Ministry of Justice by popular ODS figure Jiří Pospíšil.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent an initial Swiss approach in the first half of 2010 onto the Ministry of Justice which then transferred it to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in Prague, John said. As a result, half a year was lost in properly dealing with the Swiss demands, he added.
The VV chairman said the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office in Prague — which had borne most of the public blame for the Czech state’s failure to sign up in time as a claimant for damages in the Swiss criminal proceedings — was not the main Czech culprit and appeared to have been a sacrificial lamb. Czechs had been given the mistaken impression following dismissals and disciplinary action at the prosecutor’s office that the right people were being punished, he added.
A Swiss court in late December rejected the belated Czech application to sign up to the criminal proceedings against six Czech and one Belgian former manager of MUS accused of fraud, deception and money laundering at the former state-controlled mining company. It complained in its decision of the tawdry fashion Czechs had handled Swiss authorities’ requests for cooperation during the period preceding the pre-trial proceedings and preparation of charges.
Swiss authorities said 600 million Swiss francs in around 100 bank accounts had been frozen in relation to the charges, some of the money which they believe the Czech state might have had a rightful claim. Czech moves to claim some of the frozen assets, perhaps through a separate civil action, now look like costing many millions in legal costs that could have easily been avoided if the bureaucratic machine had communicated and acted efficiently in the first place.
Czech authorities say new evidence sent to the Swiss side might now allow pre-trial proceedings to be reopened and the country to sign up to the criminal case in spite of the failure first time round. The trial of the former MUS managers is scheduled to proceed in the first half of 2012.