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TIMELINE

The case of Herold versus Slovak Telecom

1990 - Telecom and Post Office state service signs contract with IMCO firm on the provision of telephone books. IMCO was to take information given by the state telecom provider, and look after advertising, printing and distribution to homes and offices until 1997.
1991 - IMCO takes Telecom and Post Office to arbitrage proceedings over non-fulfillment of contract, and wins case.
1992 - Supreme Court confirms arbitrage court finding. IMCO then sues its partner, and wins 16 million crowns in damages, which the firm re-invests into cooperation with the state business, now called Slovenské telekomunikácie (ST). At the same time, the IMCO-ST contract is amended to include penalties if either side fails to meet conditions; the fines amount to 500 crowns per day, with the total fine to increase five-fold every three months if it is not settled. IMCO's contract is extended to 2004.

1990 - Telecom and Post Office state service signs contract with IMCO firm on the provision of telephone books. IMCO was to take information given by the state telecom provider, and look after advertising, printing and distribution to homes and offices until 1997.

1991 - IMCO takes Telecom and Post Office to arbitrage proceedings over non-fulfillment of contract, and wins case.

1992 - Supreme Court confirms arbitrage court finding. IMCO then sues its partner, and wins 16 million crowns in damages, which the firm re-invests into cooperation with the state business, now called Slovenské telekomunikácie (ST). At the same time, the IMCO-ST contract is amended to include penalties if either side fails to meet conditions; the fines amount to 500 crowns per day, with the total fine to increase five-fold every three months if it is not settled. IMCO's contract is extended to 2004.

1993 - Herold Business Data s.r.o. formed, absorbs IMCO and takes on all its contracts and liabilities, presenting itself as ST's new business partner on provision of phone books. Cooperation continues, but ST will later claim that in doing this and not getting ST's permission, IMCO/Herold Business Data has broken contract.

1995 - ST under leadership of director Peter Valent ceases to fulfill terms of contract - penalties kick in. ST begins issuing telephone books through firm named Mediatel s.r.o. All claims for settlements from Herold are returned with the statement that ST is not in contractual relations with Herold Business Data.

January 1996 - ST penalty rises to 400 million crowns; Herold Business Data boss Ivan Matušík decides to act on the basis of the 1991 Bankruptcy Law. He calls for a 'dispute period' at Bratislava Regional Court, which according to the law must precede any bankruptcy proceedings. Also in keeping with the law, he forms a 'council of creditors' in July, which in November 1996 recalls ST head Valent and appoints in his stead František Eke as ST director.

January 1996 - Bratislava III District Court rules that no legal relationship exists between ST and Herold. Herold appeals.

September 1996 - Parliament approves amendment to the Bankruptcy Law making it illegal to call bankruptcy on state-owned firms, including ST. Article II of the new law also requires courts to call off any bankruptcy proceedings started against these state firms, apparently a direct shot at Matušík and his case against ST. The new law takes effect October 16.

October 23, 1996 - 32 members of parliament, led by future Telecom Minister Gabriel Palacka, appeal to Constitutional Court to rule on whether new Bankruptcy Law is in keeping with Slovak Constitution.

October 24, 1996 - Bratislava Regional Court halts bankruptcy case against ST. Matušík appeals to Supreme Court in November, which in March 1997 confirms Regional Court ruling.

March 4, 1998 - Constitutional Court rules that amendment is against Constitution, as courts cannot stop bankruptcy cases already in progress, since this would mean applying law principles retroactively, which the court had already ruled inadmissible.

April 1998 - František Eke allegedly issues about 40 billion crowns in ST 'promissory notes' to ensure that Matušík recovers at least part of his debt.

May 1998 - Herold Business Data (renamed Herold Tele Media in January 1997), claims to be new owner of ST, and sends letters to state channels STV and Slovak Radio (SRo) as well as private VTV demanding their debts to ST be settled by May 28. Matušík claims that Eke is the only current employee of ST; all 'former' ST employees now work for Herold, he writes.

June 1998 - Bratislava Regional Court overturns January 1996 ruling of Bratislava III court that no legal relationship exists between ST and Herold.

July 24, 1998 - Ruling of Supreme Court that Herold bankruptcy case on ST be discontinued takes effect.

June 30, 1999 - ST begins execution of Herold property for failure to keep conditions of 1992 contract, thus de facto confirming the validity of a contract it has always denied was legally binding.

October 1999 - Amendment to Law on Large-Scale Privatisation takes effect, allowing for sale of 'strategic' firms like ST; Telecom Ministry announces that 51% stake in ST will be sold to foreign investor. Matušík suit gains fresh energy, as Herold warns ST sale advisor Deutsche Bank of ST debt, which Matušík claims has reached 440 billion crowns. At the same time, Matušík again begins bankruptcy proceedings against ST.

January 2000 - Herold takes case to Strasbourg European Court for Human Rights after Slovak Attorney General and Telecom Minister Jozef Macejko refuse to allow bankruptcy case against ST. On the basis of this refusal, Bratislava Regional Court again halts bankruptcy proceedings. Matušík appeals this to the Supreme Court in June 2000.

May 9, 2000 - Matušík writes to Saili Niista, head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, warning him against buying into ST because of the 440 billion crowns it allegedly owes Herold.

September 2000 - Deutsche Telekom written into business register as new owners of 51% stake in ST.

April 2001 - Austrian firm CDI Holding presents first of František Eke's promissory notes, for 500 million crowns, to ST for payment. ST refuses. CDI representatives say they have about 24.5 billion crowns in these notes in their possession, having obtained them from Herold, and may sell them to interested parties in order to recover what CDI claims is 2.5 billion crowns owed it by ST.

Compiled by Tom Nicholson from interviews and Slovak press.

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