Bureaucratic goof could cost country billions of crowns
What appears to be gross bureaucratic incompetence may cost the Czech Republic billions of crowns. The country’s belated bid to become a party in the ongoing criminal case against the former managers of the Czech mining firm Mostecká uhelná, involving billions of crowns now frozen in Swiss bank accounts - has been thrown out by a Swiss court, leaving the Czechs out in the cold.
Switzerland launched a probe into the case in 2005 on suspicion that the Czech mining company’s directors were embezzling huge sums of money, some of which were being transferred to Swiss accounts within an extensive money-laundering scheme. Six Czechs and one Belgian citizen have been charged with money laundering and around 600 million Swiss francs were frozen in close to 100 bank accounts. The Swiss authorities say they approached the Czech side about the case as early as 2006 and had been sent from one institution to another in a vain attempt to elicit cooperation.
In Prague, the Czech Finance Ministry and the Public Prosecutor’s Office are pointing accusing fingers at each other and squabbling over which institution should rightly have responded to the case. Two officials from the Public Prosecutor’s Office have been sacked for sleeping on the job and although the Czech finance minister tried to make light of the matter it is clear that Czech participation in the civil proceedings will be much more costly and much less advantageous than if the country had been in the role of a plaintiff. At a time of belt-tightening and fears of a new recession in Europe, this is a goof that the public will find it hard to understand or forgive. Not to mention the embarrassing fact that it was left to the Swiss authorities to uncover and tackle a big corruption case in the Czech Republic.