Sunday, 22 October 2017

LN: President's interventions in trade need to be known

ČTK |
20 September 2017

Prague, Sept 19 (CTK) - The Czech public should know how many times President Milos Zeman and his team intervened in business deals concerning foreign countries, and what were the deals and the purposes of the interventions about, Jan Klesla writes in daily Lidove noviny (LN) on Tuesday in relation to the Liglass affair.

On Monday, Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said the Czech media contributed to the fact that Kyrgyzstan withdrew from a huge contract with a Czech firm, Liglass Trading, for the construction of a cascade of hydropower plants.

Klesla writes that it would be a gross mistake if the affair ended after the Kyrgyz government decided to withdraw from the contract on Monday.

The case of Liglass Trading, an unknown Czech company that became a favourite bidder in a competition for the building of hydroelectric power plants thanks to Zeman's intercession, made busy many people in the last few weeks, not only from the Czech media and politics but also from the Czech security forces and intelligence services, Klesla writes.

He says the scandal concerns no trifle - not just a letter sent to a faraway country in Central Asia, which was the impression that the Czech Presidential Office tried to create at first.

Zeman recommended Liglass Trading to Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev during their meeting, it ensued from his interview with Czech Radio (CRo) in July.

On the top diplomatic level, in fact on behalf of the whole country, Zeman recommended a company about which nobody knows anything, which has no reputation in power plant building and has odd headquarters, and the capability of which to carry out the giant construction project is very doubtful, Klesla writes.

Even if there were no corruption suspicions, the project might disgrace the Czech Republic due to its failure. However, it seems no coincidence that the case surfaced before the Kyrgyz presidential election. Without the political pressure in Kyrgyzstan, the case would not be revealed, Klesla writes.

Before the Czech presidential election scheduled for January 2018 in which Zeman will seek re-election, the Czech public needs to know what was the whole affair really about. It is important to know why Zeman intervened in the case and who stood in the background, especially as controversial Presidential Office head Vratislav Mynar, who has kept his post despite lacking a security vetting, was involved in it, Klesla writes.

Mynar had lobbied for the firm with his counterpart in Atambayev's office, some Czech media wrote.

It is crucial to know how many intercessions and other similar interventions Mynar and other people around Zeman have made. Unfortunately, we do not know how many skeletons in the closet are waiting to be revealed at various places abroad in this respect, Klesla writes.

He says the question of how many cases similar to Liglass there are should be answered by the Presidential Office, or possibly the security forces and secret services.

The costs of the power plants' construction were originally put at $400 to 700 million. Liglass was to spend $37 million on the purchase of RusGidro's stock in the ZAO Verkhne-Narynskiye GES company that was in charge of the project. The Kyrgyz government said it decided to withdraw from the contract because Liglass did not pay the money by a set deadline.

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