E Side Property, which owns the Eden stadium in Prague, home to the Slavia football club, is in trouble — virtually bankrupt and with no money to pay off its debts. It faces insolvency proceedings, bankruptcy or the sale to another investor. In terms of uncovering the murky past of E Side Property, the Czech public would welcome either of the first two scenarios. But more likely, Prague districts will take a bath.
Sparta Prague football club will just be a spectator as the Czech league championship is played out this weekend. But the recent poor form and mounting financial losses must be getting to the owners with radical solutions rumored to be on the bench and ready to be brought into play.
The battle over the assets of the investment firm Key Investments, through which the administrations of Prague 6, 10 and 13 invested hundreds of millions of crowns, undoubtedly has a number of politicians gripped with fear. The organs of justice have finally begun to take action: in mid-March the Prague 2 district court ordered the confiscation of the assets of the firm Oleochem, Czech Position has learnt.
František Straka, a man who sparked protests because of his Sparta Prague past when he was appointed to become manager of city rivals Slavia, has stepped down from the post after just 10 games in charge of the Czech football club. Referring to the constant criticism and lack of support from fans, Straka said he had asked to go because it would be in the best interest of club and players.
Exactly a year ago, Czech Position was the first publication to report on the scandal surrounding the Key Investments brokerage, which could be dubbed as the Czech equivalent of the Bernie Madoff case. While the US finance fraudster received a 150-year prison sentence, the main protagonists in the Czech scandal remain free — thanks to the level of morality and expertise in the Czech police and judiciary.
Czech Position has learned that the Center for Economics and Politics (CEP), the think tank founded by President Václav Klaus in 1998 after he stepped down as prime minister, entrusted money to Key Investments, an opaque brokerage under investigation by the central bank — and got most of it back. Meanwhile, two Prague city districts have yet to see huge sums of taxpayers’ money sunk into junk and illiquid bonds returned.
Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS) could well have become just too much to bear for the party’s cronies governing city hall when he demanded Natland come clean about its real owners. Natland Group, a majority shareholder in the majority council-owned city waste company Pražské služby, was also facing moves by Svoboda to block or alter a huge contract it was lined up to win.
For the first time in its history, the Czech lower house of Parliament’s mandate and immunity committee will examine the assets of a former colleague — Aleš Řebíček, the ODS minister of transport (2006–2009) who made a fortune in the sector and later bought the Slavia Prague football club. Řebíček told Slavia fans he sold his Viamont stake for Kč 750 mln; the figure doesn’t jibe with his official declarations.
Who is financing the left-wing party through which former Czech PM Jiří Paroubek is looking to stage his political comeback? Where will the ex-chairman of the ČSSD raise the estimated Kč 100 million his new “Left 21” party will need for its campaign to enter Parliament? Thus far, no one has tracked down the sponsors, but the trail is getting hotter, and signs point to Natland Group.
Former Civic Democrat (ODS) transport minister Aleš Řebíček and the Natland financial group combined in a deft one-two when the former was eventually able to get his hands on the celebrated football club Slavia Prague. But that play does not look likely again, with Natland looking comfortable in possession of the Eden stadium.