THE TUG-OF-WAR between the amorphous firm Interblue, which bought Slovakia’s excess carbon dioxide emission quotas at a bargain price, and the country’s Environment Ministry, which will be dissolved in just a couple of months as part of a government reorganisation, continues. The new owners of Interblue Group Europe, who emerged shortly after Environment Minister Jozef Medveď said on March 3 that the original deal was dead, claim that the deal is very much alive and well, and that they want to negotiate. In return the ministry demanded a document proving that the Swiss-based Interblue Group Europe is the legal successor of the US-based Interblue Group.
The US firm was itself of dubious provenance: its official registered address was last year found to be a lock-up garage in Washington State; its owners and beneficiaries have never been revealed. Now the ministry has said that the document submitted by Milan Ružička, who claims to be the Interblue’s new owner, is not relevant.
“I have purchased Interblue Group Europe AG as my personal investment and I am its sole owner,” Ružička announced on March 9, adding that the process of registering the changes he announced was currently taking place. “Despite everything that accompanied the transaction I consider this deal a normal one.”
Political ethics watchdog Fair-Play Alliance has made a phone call which observers say ministry officials should have made long ago.
“We phoned the commercial registries in the state of Washington and the canton of Zug [in Switzerland] to learn that neither has information on the possible legal successor to the dissolved garage-firm Interblue,” Fair-Play Alliance said.
The watchdog noted that a legal successor to Interblue Group LLC could have emerged only by a merger or a split based on legal regulations.
“Any time up to 2012, when the contract on the sale of emission quotas elapses, a universal legal successor to Interblue Group LLC could emerge and claim the contractually guaranteed [right to purchase Slovakia’s future] quotas, which is why it is crucial to find out whether a legal successor exists at all,” said the watchdog.
According to Fair-Play Alliance it is essential to find out whether the Environment Ministry has given its written approval for the transfer of the right to purchase future quotas to other persons or whether a third party could have obtained this right without the approval of the ministry.
Meanwhile, the Pravda daily reported that Ružička, who in early March appeared alongside Natalie Gough, who he said was the new authorised representative of Interblue, and František Jakoubek, introduced as its project manager, is active in the hotel business, running hotels belonging to the Rentier joint stock company. Jakoubek previously worked at a Czech gas utility, Ružička confirmed in a brief March 16 interview with the Sme daily.
The fate of a €15 million bonus payment that the Slovak Environment Ministry believes Slovakia is entitled to receive from Interblue remains unclear. The original contract included a clause stipulating that if Slovakia spent the funds it received from the original sale of quotas within the ‘Green Investment Scheme’ (GIS), i.e. for environmental projects, the country would be eligible for a bonus payment of €1 per tonne. On March 19 Ružička told Sme that he had €15 million and was ready to pay the bonus, but that the ministry must prove the original funds were spent on GIS projects.
Meanwhile, the General Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that an investigation into unspecified criminal complaints relateing to the quotas sale is underway.
If Interblue Group Europe is the legal successor to the US firm it would be entitled to an additional 35 million tonnes of emissions quotas at a price which is regarded as disadvantageous to Slovakia.
22. Mar 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová