Pavol Rusko, who served as economy minister between 2003 and 2005 and was formerly the leader of the Alliance of the New Citizen (ANO) party, on Thursday, March 15, described charges of fraud brought against him by police over his alleged involvement in fraud during the sale of state-owned energy producer Steam-Gas Cycle (PPC) in 2004 as absurd. "I'm in complete shock," he told the TASR newswire.
According to the police, Rusko was partly responsible for what is alleged to have been the disadvantageous sale of PPC, causing a loss to the state amounting to at least €42 million in 2005-06. "Nobody has proved that the sale was disadvantageous," said Rusko. The Economy Ministry during his term in office carried out an analysis that found that the sale would be disadvantageous, however. Rusko authorised the analysis, the Sme daily wrote, but later withdrew it from discussion by the government before parliament was due to vote on the sale.
"What if I erred in the analysis?" Rusko asked. He said that PPC was sold by the National Property Fund (FNM), and not the Economy Ministry. Rusko added that he still had not received any official charges from the police, TASR reported, and that he had learnt about them only from the media. If convicted, he could in theory face a prison sentence of up to 12 years.
A prosecutor with the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Alexander Bíró, told the SITA newswire that the charges were connected with the allegedly disadvantageous privatisation of PPC. Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic said he wanted to be very careful about reporting on the investigations and evidence in order to prevent the investigation from being thwarted. He refused to comment on Rusko's role in the PPC privatisation, as well as who might be charged next.
Sources: TASR, Sme, SITA
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.