THE EMISSIONS scandal now has a name to go with the millions of euros in lost state revenues: Rastislav Bilas, a little-known businessman from a small town in east Slovakia.
But as more becomes known about Bilas’ political ties, he – along with his presumed sponsors – may be wishing he had not been so quick to take the stage.
Bilas claims he called a March 24 press conference because was fed up with the inability of Environment Ministry bureaucrats to explain a 2009 deal in which 15 million tonnes of surplus state quotas were sold to a US shell company for about half their market worth, or €75 million.
“I got to the point where enough was enough,” he said. Bilas revealed that he and Slovak arms dealer Norbert Havalec had managed the deal, earning half a million euros each, for a Czech golf professional named Marek Pleyer.
The quotas were later sold to Japanese buyers for about €50 million more than the Environment Ministry had received.
However, in the days following that press conference, the media focused on Havalec‘ and Bilas‘ relationship with Ján Slota, chairman of the SNS governing coalition party.
Bilas also said he “expected to meet on this topic” with Jozef Brhel, who is believed to be one of the sponsors of Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party.
The Environment Ministry, meanwhile, has said it does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the new Czech owners of Interblue, as the original US shell company was known. “
Minister Jozef Medveď stresses that no legal relationship exists between the Environment Ministry and Interblue Group,” said ministry spokesperson Jana Kaplanová.
The ministry is attempting to recover €15 million it claims it is owed by the original Interblue, as well as to get out of a contract committing it to sell another 35 million tonnes worth of quotas to the firm at the original, low price.
5. Apr 2010 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson