The Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) has said that to comply with the government’s request to check the books of the Administration of State Material Reserves (SSHR) would be futile, even if it had the full capacity to do so. PM Petr Nečas’ cabinet wants state auditors to investigate the controversial extra-budgetary “special accounts” — but the NKÚ has already made clear the SSHR buys high and sells low with impunity, and MPs have de facto legitimized the practice.
The opaque brokerage Key Investments — into which nearly Kč 1 billion of public funds has apparently been lost or embezzled — has filed for insolvency and will probably go into liquidation. This does not mean, however, that Key Investments will cease to be a threat to the myriad politicians who profited from deals with the brokerage over the past decade. The potential for blackmail and settling political scores is huge.
Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (ODS) was sacked without warning — and apparent provocation. It seems Prime Minister Petr Nečas caved in to pressure from those within his party (and the ‘godfathers’ behind them) who fear an effective prosecution service. But the public smell a rat, and this is the biggest mistake of Nečas’ political career thus far. Once seen as ‘Mr Clean,’ he is now thought to have dirtied his hands.
The Czech police’s anti-corruption and financial crimes unit ÚOKFK has been investigating criminal complaints relating to the opaque brokerage Key Investments — into which nearly Kč 1 billion of public funds has apparently been lost or embezzled — for more than a year and a half. Finally, some politicians who had a hand in putting taxpayers’ money with the brokerage have been held to account.
Prague City Council this week finally approved a resolution of intent to buy a minority stake in the murky municipal waste firm Pražské služby from the Cyprus-registered firm Soranus Limited. At the same time, Deputy Prague Mayor Pavel Richter (TOP 09) and Councilor Radek Lohynský (ODS) were charged with making it happen, with the latter to take the lead, according to a document obtained by Czech Position.
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.
The Key Investments archives are a powerful weapon, both for those with something to lose and something to gain. The web of influence involved in the scandal around the dodgy brokerage goes to the summit of the Czech business-political power axes — and that’s the reason why only one token, and peripheral, culprit has been reeled in so far: former industry and trade minister Martin Kocourek.
The Slovak Poštová banka, controlled by the financial group J&T, is buying up the loans of the chemical plant Spolchemie, the most valuable undertaking of parent company Via Chem Group, from Czech banks. Any transfer of Spolchemie’s property would significantly affect Via Chem Group’s creditors, i.e. Prague 6 and Prague 10, whose blithe politicians set off down the path of risky investment with the dodgy brokerage Key Investments a few years ago.
Czech state fuel distributor Čepro chief Jiří Borovec is tired, de-motivated and will step down from the post in December. In political circles, there is talk of him having been pushed to leave, with the Industry and Trade Ministry looking to install one of their own as CEO. It could be he’s frustrated that PM Petr Nečas doesn’t share his vision for a strategic regional hook-up, as PKN Orlen, MOL and Total wait in the wings.
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.
Founder and editor-in-chief of ČESKÁ POZICE. He studied mathematics and modern philology at Charles University in Prague. He has been working as a journalist since 1989. His experience includes reporting for the weekly Respekt, the daily Lidové noviny and the magazine Týden. He ran the economic-political weekly Euro for 12 years starting in 1998. As a journalist, he focuses on politics and business.