IT IS NOT any exceptionally high jackpot that has been bringing media attention to Tipos, the state-owned lottery company, but rather a long-standing legal case involving a Cyprus-based firm named Lemikon that wants to collect €14 million from Tipos based on a recent ruling by Slovakia’s Supreme Court. Tipos, however, is not planning to quickly wire money to Cyprus and will challenge the decision of the court with an appeal to the Constitutional Court. The lottery company also told the media that it is in good financial shape and that the legal wrangling would in no way threaten it from paying out winning tickets.
Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš said that although he respects the ruling of appellate senate of the Supreme Court he fundamentally disagrees with the basis of the lawsuit, calling it a fraud.
“I consider this whole case a fraud from its very beginning, based on which speculators want to strip the state of billions of Slovak crowns,” Mikloš stated, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “The Finance Ministry as shareholder [of Tipos] will do its best and use all legal means at its disposal to protect the money of taxpayers.”
The legal dispute involving Tipos arose in January 2000 when another lottery company, Športka from the Czech Republic, sued Slovakia's state-run Tipos over what it called unauthorised use of lottery trademarks as well as technical know-how. The companies also litigated the issue of appropriated business practices and lost profit to Športka, with the Czech firm demanding Sk300 million from Tipos in 2000.
A Cyprus-based firm, Lemikon Limited, which is associated with businessman Radovan Vitek, purchased Športka’s legal claim in October 2008. That same year Tipos paid roughly €16 million to Lemikon’s account. Tipos now, however, said it expects Lemikon to pay back around €1.9 million as the payment made in 2008 was that much more than the damages awarded by the Supreme Court.
Tipos said it will also file an appeal in the next few days on the grounds that its right to court protection, particularly the constitutionally-guaranteed right to fair court proceedings, was infringed.
“This right also includes the right to a high-quality rationale behind a court ruling,” said Tipos general director Miloš Ronec, stating that the Supreme Court’s reasoning spans only four pages out of a ruling of more than 100 pages, the TASR newswire wrote.
Ronec also told the media that Tipos has filed another proposal to restructure the company after a similar proposal was rejected by Bratislava I District Court last week.
That application was turned down by the court for what it called a failure to observe requirements prescribed by law. TASR wrote that Tipos has been seeking to restructure the company in order to gain protection from creditors whose claims, Tipos asserts, are questionable.
The current Finance Ministry blamed the previous management of Tipos and the ministry for the recent developments. Former finance minister Ján Počiatek rejected the charges that the ministry under his management did not protect the public interest.
“Always when Mikloš has some problems, which he is now obviously having, he blames the previous management of the ministry,” Počiatek stated, as quoted by SITA.
Počiatek responded that the Finance Ministry under his direction had acted as permitted by law and that his effort was to assure that Tipos, as one of the most lucrative state firms, was not brought to its knees.
Mikloš asserted that in 2008 the Finance Ministry signed an out-of-court settlement with Lemikon in a somewhat secretive manner under which Lemikon was to receive €66 million from the Slovak state, TASR wrote, and that an initial payment of €16 million was made to Lemikon even before changes in legislation made it possible for then-general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka to seek a postponement in the enforcement of court rulings.
The former state secretary (deputy minister) of the Finance Ministry, Peter Kažimír, told the media on April 26 that Mikloš has always preferred to see Tipos go into bankruptcy to resolve the whole issue, adding that he thought some private financial entities would probably welcome it if the state-run lottery company went bust so they could take over its position in the Slovak market, TASR reported.
2. May 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová