Thursday, 13 December 2018

Former Czech finance minister Svoboda, convicted of fraud, dies

ČTK |
3 March 2017

Prague, March 2 (CTK) - Ivo Svoboda, Czech finance minister in the government of Milos Zeman (1998-2002) and former Social Democrat (CSSD) deputy chairman, died on February 23 at the age of 68 years, Jarmila Kucerova, priest of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, has confirmed to the iDnes.cz server.
Svoboda was the first Czech minister since the 1989 collapse of the communist regime to end up in prison. He and his aide Barbora Snopkova were convicted of siphoning off assets from the Liberta pram maker in 2005.
Svoboda graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University in Prague. First he worked as a developer the ZPA Cakovice company and then as a business representative of the Videoton Hungarian firm.
He started his political career in the first post-communist democratic election in 1990, running for a deputy to the Czech National Council (CNR) for the Civic Forum (OF), the main force behind the fall of communism.
In the 1990s, he was an MP and then he became deputy finance minister. From 1998, he headed the Finance Ministry in Zeman's one-colour CSSD government. He was also elected CSSD deputy chairman.
Svoboda's political rise ended in the late 1990s due to the affair connected with the Liberta factory in Melnik, central Bohemia, that he managed in 1996-1998 along with his close collaborator Snopkova before he became the finance minister.
The police started prosecuting both of them in 1999 on suspicion of harming a creditor and breach of duties in bankruptcy proceedings. Snopkova's son Stanislav Kratochvil was also accused in the case later.
Svoboda was sacked from the government in reaction to the scandal in 1999.
In 2002, Svoboda, Snopkova and Kratochvil were charged with harming a creditor, causing the damage of more than 19 million crowns. Besides, Svoboda and Snopkova were suspected of embezzlement (more than 5.6-million-crown damage) and advantaging a creditor (over one-million-crown damage).
In 2005, the Prague High Court definitively sent Svoboda and Snopkova to prison for five years, while Kratochvil was given a suspended sentence. Svoboda and Snopkova were released on parole in 2008.
($1=25.654 crowns)

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