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Ex-minister charged with fraud

PAVOL Rusko, a former economy minister and one-time chairman of the now-defunct New Citizen’s Alliance (ANO) party, has been accused by the investigator of the police’s Office for the Fight Against Organised Crime of fraud in association with the privatisation of Bratislava-based electricity generator Steam-Gas Cycle (PPC), prosecutor Alexander Bíró of the Office of the Special Prosecutor announced on March 15. According to Bíró, criminal activities dating back to 2005 and 2006 caused damage to the state valued at €42,024,306 that benefited a private company, the SITA newswire reported. Rusko described the accusation that he benefited from the privatisation of PPC as absurd and said he would take legal steps to defend himself.

PAVOL Rusko, a former economy minister and one-time chairman of the now-defunct New Citizen’s Alliance (ANO) party, has been accused by the investigator of the police’s Office for the Fight Against Organised Crime of fraud in association with the privatisation of Bratislava-based electricity generator Steam-Gas Cycle (PPC), prosecutor Alexander Bíró of the Office of the Special Prosecutor announced on March 15. According to Bíró, criminal activities dating back to 2005 and 2006 caused damage to the state valued at €42,024,306 that benefited a private company, the SITA newswire reported. Rusko described the accusation that he benefited from the privatisation of PPC as absurd and said he would take legal steps to defend himself.

Slovak media described the move as the first charges to emerge as a result of the inquiry into the so-called Gorilla file, a leaked document which purports to describe conversations between businessmen and senior politicians and officials based on covert recordings made by Slovakia’s SIS spy agency in 2005 and 2006.

Rusko’s case will now be overseen by a prosecutor from the department of economic crimes at the Office of the Special Prosecutor, part of the Office of the General Prosecutor. The department is now checking the investigation file and the decision to press charges in order to confirm that the investigator proceeded in line with the law, said Bíró.

If found guilty of the charges Rusko could receive five to twelve years in prison, SITA wrote.
Five days before the March 10 parliamentary elections, Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic filed a motion with the Office of the General Prosecutor to cancel the 2004 privatisation of PPC.

He explained that “investigation confirms that the privatisation of [PPC] was done unlawfully and was significantly under-priced”, SITA reported.

He said that during the investigation of the Gorilla file, evidence was found which pointed to the disadvantageous nature of the PPC privatisation.

Rusko says that accusations that he tried to conceal the disadvantageous nature of the privatisation are absurd, adding that he himself had ordered an analysis of the sale which had concluded that the sale was disadvantageous. He also noted that the analysis had been available on the ministry website for eight years, SITA reported.

In 2004 the second government of Mikuláš Dzurinda, in which both Lipšic and Rusko were ministers, put PPC up for sale. Four bidders were ultimately shortlisted. Ninety percent of the shares were ultimately acquired by PPC Holding, a company controlled by the Penta financial group, an influential investment firm which features extensively in the Gorilla file.

Lipšic said he does not understand why the privatisation committee agreed to sell the company for Sk2 billion (about €66 million), when one of its contracts guaranteed it profits of Sk15 billion (about €500 million), SITA reported.

An analysis prepared in 2004 by the Economy Ministry under Rusko apparently stated that the sale under the agreed conditions appeared to be “significantly economically ineffective”, the Sme daily wrote.

However, Rusko reportedly withdrew the analysis before the cabinet session that would have discussed it.

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