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Legal problems with SPP privatisation were not serious

THE LAW was broken during the government's sale of a minority stake in the gas utility Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) six years ago, but none of the violations were serious. That was the finding announced by representatives of the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) on May 6, the ČTK newswire reported.

THE LAW was broken during the government's sale of a minority stake in the gas utility Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) six years ago, but none of the violations were serious. That was the finding announced by representatives of the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) on May 6, the ČTK newswire reported.

Following a parliamentary resolution, in February this year the NKÚ carried out an inspection of the SPP privatisation process.

The NKÚ did not find sufficient serious legal violations during the 2002 privatisation to provide grounds for any criminal prosecution. There is also no reason to cast doubt on the validity of the privatisation, according to the NKÚ.

The results of the inspection showed that part of the documentation for the process was missing, and that the public procurement process was not adhered to completely. The check also showed that the investors in the gas utility have ended up with more influence than they should have.

But correction of some decisions is, according to NKÚ, already barred by the statute of limitations. The current government of Robert Fico has repeatedly criticised the privatisation deal and the Economy Ministry has already launched a legal case against an unnamed offender. According to the NKÚ, it is impossible to say unambiguously who is responsible for the mistakes because of missing documents.

A report on SPP privatisation, considered by parliament in early February 2008, states that the sale of the minority stake violated several laws. The price paid was declared to be too low. The government of Mikuláš Dzurinda sold a minority 49-percent stake in SPP in 2002 for $2.7 billion to a consortium consisting of Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas, France's Gaz de France and the Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom. Gazprom later withdrew from the consortium. The state still has a majority 51-percent stake, held by the National Property Fund, with the Economy Ministry executing shareholder rights.

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