ACCORDING to Slovakia’s central bank, the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS), no information concerning revaluation of the central parity of the Slovak crown to the euro leaked earlier this year. Interest in what might otherwise be an arcane economic detail was aroused by suspicions that private financial groups had profited from prior knowledge of the change, which took place in May.
The suspicions, voiced by opposition politicians, concerned a meeting between Finance Minister Ján Počiatek and a partner in a Slovak financial group, J&T, aboard the group’s yacht in Monaco, shortly before the parity change was announced in late May.
J&T subsequently acknowledged making significant profits from trading in Slovak crowns just prior to the change, during which the currency strengthened markedly. The NBS, however, concluded that there was no evidence of an information leak from any of the actors, including the finance ministry, which had prior knowledge of the change.
Former finance minister Ivan Mikloš, an MP for the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) remains convinced that there was a leak and says the NBS investigation has failed.
According to Počiatek, the report proves that the whole case against him was fabricated. “It is clearly the agenda especially of Mr. (Ivan) Štefanec (SDKÚ) and Mr. (Ivan) Mikloš (SDKÚ), who thus fabricated something that has no real basis,” Počiatek told the SITA newswire on August 20.
The NBS report was presented for discussion by the government on August 20. It says that no relevant evidence confirming a leak of information was found, whether concerning changes to the exchange rate, or the parity rate. It also found that currency dealing during May showed no particular abnormalities.
The report also states that prior to it being presented to the government, nobody had filed any motions with the prosecutor’s office in connection with any leak of information about central parity.
Mikloš had asked for a report about dealings in the foreign currency markets in connection with the change of central parity to be submitted for a parliamentary debate. In his letter to NBS, he asked it to answer twelve questions concerning this.
Neither J&T nor Istrokapitál, another financial group named by the opposition in connection with the case, denied they had profited from dealing in the Slovak crown. But they denied that they had known about the change to the parity rate in advance.
They claimed that they had based their dealing in the crown on public statements by the prime minister and the governor of the NBS in support of a strong exchange rate for the Slovak crown with respect to the euro.
According to Mikloš, the NBS report tries to sweep the issue of an information leak under the carpet. “The report shames this institution,” Mikloš said, in an interview with the The Slovak Spectator.
“The report has many pages but it fails to address questions which are crucial from the point of view of merit,” Mikloš stressed.
NBS Governor Ivan Šramko has disagreed with Mikloš’s opinion. “Of course, we have answered what we have been able to answer, and we can act only within the margins of law,” he told the TA3 news channel on August 20.
According to Mikloš, the report does not answer the basic question posed by MPs. In its resolution, parliament asked the government and the NBS for a report which would either confirm or rebut any suspicion of an information leak during the change in central parity.
However, the report does not mention any suspicions. It merely states that it failed to find relevant evidence proving that there had been an information leak.
“Nobody expected the National Bank to find any evidence,” Mikloš told The Slovak Spectator.
Mikloš said the report does not answer the twelve questions he formulated for the NBS governor. Instead, it just answers two of them, and even then only partially, Mikloš told The Slovak Spectator.
“The answers show that there was a leak,” he stated.
In connection with the report’s statement that nobody had filed motion for a prosecution over suspicions of an information leak, Mikloš stressed that this should have been done by NBS representatives.
“It is within the NBS’s authority to oversee the financial market,” he said.
According to Mikloš, a leak was reflected first of all by the fact that on May 28, before the new central parity was officially announced, there was unusually big dealing by companies which had never previously dabbled in foreign currency trading before. “This can be only explained by the fact they had some information that the others did not have: that there would be a change of central parity.”
According to Mikloš’s statements in June, those dealings were mainly by the financial groups J&T and Istrokapitál. As a result, they profited to the tune of hundreds of millions of crowns, Mikloš said.
The Parliamentary Committee for Finance, Budget and Currency is due to discuss the NBS report on September 3, followed by a full session of parliament. The opposition will decide later whether it, or some other body, will file a prosecution proposal in connection with the alleged information leak.
The finance minister came in for strong public criticism by Prime Minister Robert Fico after a daily newspaper, Plus Jeden Deň, revealed that Počiatek had met J&T representatives in Monaco.
Fico called Počiatek’s behaviour “unethical”, said he was giving him “a yellow card” and promised to sack him if there was a repeat. Počiatek himself had trouble explaining why he had met the financiers, or recalling exactly how he had travelled to Monaco.
However, Fico also said that he saw no reason to dismiss Počiatek. Počiatek offered his resignation, while adding that he had not done anything illegal. Fico declined to accept it. Later, Počiatek successfully survived an opposition attempt in parliament to have him dismissed.
1. Sep 2008 at 0:00 | Ľuba Lesná