IN SHORT

HZDS deep in debt

THE RULING Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS)party is carrying a Sk40 million debt.

According to the Hospodárske Noviny daily, the party took the loan from an unknown creditor prior to the 1998 general elections to finance its massive election campaign. During the campaign the HZDS invited foreign stars such as German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and French actor Gérard Depardieu to support its election drive.

After losing the vote, however, the party failed to repay anything on the debt.

"We have agreed on an installment plan," said HZDS secretary Zdenka Kramplová.

Originally the party said the creditor did not wish to be named. Now Kramplová says that at the time the loan was drawn, no legal obligation to reveal the creditor existed. According to Hospodárske Noviny, the money came from a consortium of private companies.

"The only reason a party would keep the origin of the loan secret is because it does not want to lose the trust of the public," said Zuzana Wienk, the head of the Fair Play Alliance watchdog organization.

Such creditors are believed to have a major influence on the decisions made by party nominees in various public posts in Slovakia.

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