Viktor Kozeny launches webpage masking a less than glittering reputation

Viktor Kozeny, photo: CTK

These days almost everyone in public life has a webpage - and even highly controversial businessman Viktor Kozeny - the so-called Pirate of Prague - has proven no exception. Last week the former Czech turned Irish citizen and Bahamas resident launched a new webpage to help garner Czech support for what he claims will be his run for European Parliament in elections in June. But can a man who is wanted by Czech authorities on charges of cheating investors out of billions really believe he can count on Czech support? The idea seems dubious at best...

Today there are few in the business world that haven't come across the name of Viktor Kozeny - dubbed the Pirate of Prague by Fortune magazine for alleged legal transgressions in the heyday of coupon privatisation in the early Czech Republic. Formally charged last year, one would think Mr Kozeny would go to ground, rather than go public, with his wildest idea yet - to run as an EU citizen in upcoming EU parliament elections - representing the Czechs. The idea seems dubious at best, since by law Mr Kozeny's run would require he spent a minimum of 45 days on Czech soil. If he ever tries that, he can expect to be arrested at once.

None of that, however, has prevented Mr Kozeny from maintaining the appearance of "business as usual" and going ahead as planned. His website, launched last week featured a modern and flashy look, selling Mr Kozeny as both a "man of ideas" and a man of the future: the question is whether anyone will take him seriously. For one thing it took Czech media no time at all to notice Mr Kozeny's webpage bore uncanny resemblance to that of a far more credible democrat, U.S. presidential hopeful Howard Dean. No matter how much Mr Kozeny would like to dress himself up as a calibre politician, most Czech analysts say he's on a different planet if he thinks Czechs are going to bite. Earlier Radio Prague spoke with Jan Culik, a lecturer on media at Glasgow University, who has monitored Mr Kozeny's activities in the past.

Viktor Kozeny, photo: CTK
"Well, there is a problem with people like Mr Kozeny... In western societies there is such a thing as personal integrity: you basically don't tell lies, you don't do corrupt things. Once you do such a thing once, then you are unfortunately discredited. It is an interesting thing in the Czech environment that there are discredited people who seem to be 'coming back' and they are hoping that people will give them support. I don't really understand how this can work: the only explanation can be that may be there are some people who might actually support someone like Viktor Kozeny probably think that all the information around them, coming from the media, is absolutely relativistic and rubbish, thinking they're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But, basically in an established western society, someone facing several lawsuits wouldn't have a chance for standing in elections like this."

There's the problem that if Mr Kozeny does set foot in the Czech Republic, which is required if he was to consider any serious candidacy for the EU Parliament, he would have to spend 45 days here. But we know that if he sets foot he will be arrested. So, is this internet page really the last place that Mr Kozeny can salvage this illusion of respectability? And will Czechs fall for it?

"It is so weird and strange that I am wondering has anybody checked that the page isn't a spoof?! It is so weird, the whole page, which has basically taken the graphic style from the pages of the American presidential candidate Howard Dean, it's an interesting aspect to think about, but what does Mr Kozeny think? Does he think that nobody in the Czech Republic will notice? And then finally, okay, you can go through his programme - what he wants to do for the Czechs - this all sounds very well but again we go back to the question of integrity. Unfortunately, based on past experience we know that we can't trust a word that he says."

Want to visit Viktor Kozeny's website for yourself? The internet address is www.kozeny.cz

If you'd like to compare the page layouts Howard Dean's address is www.deanforamerica.com