Zeman to testify in Mostecké uhelné trial
President Miloš Zeman will testify next week in the criminal case of controlling the Most Coal Company (MUS). The witness will be questioned by videoconference. In 1999, Zeman’s government unanimously approved the sale of a minority state stake in MUS.
Zeman’s cabinet approved the sale of a 46 percent stake in the state to Investenergy for 650 million crowns. The indictment alleges that MUS managers and their collaborators Antonio Koláček, Marek Čmejla, Jiří Diviš and Oldřich Klimecký cheated the state by at least 3.2 billion crowns in the sale. According to the public prosecutor, the fraud was that the ministers did not know that the real purchasers of the shares would be the managers of MUS and that they would pay for them from the mining company, which they secretly controlled.
Zeman was summoned by the court on Wednesday. Next week, the main trial program also envisages questioning other members of Zeman’s former Social Democratic government: on Monday, former Minister of the Environment Miloš Kužvart and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kavan, on Tuesday former Minister of Agriculture Jan Fencl, on Thursday former Minister without Portfolio Jaroslav Bašta, then Minister work and later Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla or former Deputy Prime Minister of Zeman’s government and current head of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetský. Most of them are to appear in person. Many of them have already testified before the court about the privatization of MUS, Rychetský and Špidla, for example, in April this year.
Rychetský, at the time, in agreement with previously heard ministers, testified that the government tended to get rid of shares in companies in which it lost a majority stake. However, he did not remember the details of the vote on MUS. Špidla again explained that he voted for the direct sale of the state share because, unlike the public tender, he guaranteed the preservation of jobs in the mining company. According to him, the state could theoretically keep the minority share, but it was more advantageous to get rid of responsibility.
The Ministries of Industry and Finance Miroslav Grégr and Pavel Mertlík were responsible for privatization. The Ministry of Finance originally promoted the competition variant, but Mertlík leaned towards Grégr’s position, which from the beginning was a supporter of the direct sale of the state share.
Defendants deny guilt. According to them, the state knew who he was selling to, or he was not interested in it, because he wanted to get rid of his share in MUS. They also point out that they have already been convicted in Switzerland of identical offenses in connection with MUS. They face up to ten years in prison in the Czech Republic for fraud and misuse of information in business dealings.