published: 17.10.2013, 14:42 | updated: 17.10.2013 15:03:16
Nymburk - Czech President Milos Zeman did not know in 1999 that some ministers of his government had been aware of who was behind Appian that had bought the MUS coal mining firm, he told reporters in Nymburk today.
He said he had not talked about it with the ministers of his cabinet then.
Antonin Kolacek, former MUS co-owner whom a Swiss court sent to prison for fraud along with another four MUS managers on October 10, told CTK that some members of the Zeman government (in office 1998-2002) had known that he and his partners were behind Appian.
"I can neither confirm nor refute this statement because I did not speak with these ministers about it," Zeman said.
"In view of the fact that I was the prime minister then and prime minister is not the same as minister, I can only state that I did not know about it," he added.
The Swiss court in Bellinzona convicted Kolacek, along with Jiri Divis, Marek Cmejla, Petr Kraus and Oldrich Klimecky, of fraud and money laundering in connection with the "wild" privatisation of MUS and sent them to prison from one year and four months to four years and four months last Thursday.
Kolacek was given the highest sentence of 52 months.
The managers deny the charges. They can appeal the verdict within 30 days.
In the latter half of the 1990s, the Appian Group was presented as a group of U.S. investors. Later it turned out that they were fictitious and the firm was owned by Kolacek and the other convicts.
"We told it unofficially to politicians and journalists. Many knew it, but they played the game with us, a game about capitalism," Kolacek told CTK on Monday.
Some government members knew how it was, he said.
Zeman today recalled that his government had approved the MUS sale "fully unanimously."
MUS was founded in 1993 through the merger of three former state mines. In 1998, the Czech state lost control of the firm when the Appian Group bought MUS's freely available shares through the Investenergy company.In July 1999, Zeman's government sold the remaining state stake in the mines to Appian for 650 million crowns.
Both Swiss and Czech prosecutors concluded that the price was unreasonably low.
In July 2005 the Swiss police started investigating the suspicion that money was illegally taken out from MUS and laundered in Switzerland afterwards. Swiss authorities blocked about 600 million Swiss francs (an equivalent of about 12.5 billion crowns) in the suspects' bank accounts.
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