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STV daughter firms a cover for fraud?

AN AUDIT of 24 contracts with daughter companies set up by the STV public television station in January 2004 under then-director Richard Rybníček has found that millions of crowns were misspent on services that were either not provided, or that were grossly overpriced.

The list of offenses unveiled in the forensic audit includes payments to daughter firms for fictitious consultation services or for services that were actually rendered by STV employees, and the procurement of property and technology for the daughter firms outside the public procurement process.

"Most of these daughter companies did not bring any money to STV, and served only to obscure financial flows," said STV's interim director, Branislav Záhradník, who launched the audit despite himself having been the managing director of one of the station's daughters, TV BB.

"No one from the management informed us [of the activities of STV's daughter firms], we didn't sign anything, and we didn't know anything," said Záhradník, who was the station's spokesman under Rybníček's leadership (2002-2006).

Neither Rybníček nor his closest associate, former STV business director Marcel Para, would respond to the allegations when questioned by the Hospodárske Noviny daily.

The audit of STV's daughter companies will continue with an inspection of another 61 contracts worth hundreds of millions of crowns. Záhradník has said the results of the audit may be reported to the Attorney General's Office.

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