Thursday, October 13, 2005

Polish prosecutors, Czech colleagues discuss Unipetrol case
PRAGUE- Representatives of the Krakow, Poland, prosecutor's office will meet their Czech colleagues in Prague today to discuss aid in the investigation into alleged corruption in the privatisation of the Czech petrochemical company Unipetrol, Martin Omelka has said.
"I cannot say anything more than that the negotiations concern the investigation of a Unipetrol case aspect," Omelka, spokesman for the Prague City State Attorney's Office, said.

The meeting was initiated by the Polish State Attorney's Office. The Polish prosecutors want to personally discuss cooperation with their Czech colleagues and to ask them for help in interrogations.

According to unofficial information, they will also want to interrogate leading Czech politicians, including Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and ex-prime minister Stanislav Gross, both the senior ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD).

Polish authorities have already asked for legal aid, namely the cassettes with a discussion between Polish lobbyist Jacek Spyra and Zdenek Dolezel, former director of the office of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek (CSSD) as well as of his predecessor Gross.

It was particularly this discussion, broadcast recently by the Czech commercial television channel Nova, that triggered the scandal around the Unipetrol sale.

Polish PKN Orlen bought 63 percent of Unipetrol shares for 13.05 billion crowns last year.

Spyra and Dolezel spoke about politicians' corruption. Dolezel allegedly asked Spyra for a bribe of five million crowns as well.

The Krakow prosecutor's office is interested in Unipetrol in connection with the investigation into the "fuel scandal" around extensive frauds with fuels.

The office wants to examine all significant contracts PKN Orlen concluded.

The Unipetrol privatisation is also mentioned in the report by a special commission of Polish parliament that investigated the circumstances of the dismissal of the Orlen former CEO three years ago.

According to the report, the Czech government could have got 5.3 billion crowns more than what PKN Orlen paid it. The government allegedly refused a higher bid under the pressure of the Czech company Agrofert and businessman Andrej Babis.

The Czech Chamber of Deputies has also decided this week to form a commission to look into Unipetrol's privatisation. The deputies are to elect 10 members and chairman of the commission by tomorrow.