The former economy minister from 2003 to 2005, Pavol Rusko, denied at a press conference on March 19 that he had committed fraud in the sale of state-owned energy producer Combined Cycle (PPC) to the Penta financial group in 2004. Rusko said he is preparing a legal complaint against the police action and called on Special Prosecutor Dušan Kováčik to intervene against what he called "injustice".
The privatisation of PPC began in January 2004 when the government decided that the entire package of PPC shares would be sold. At the time, 90 percent of its shares were held by the National Property Fund (FNM) while 10 percent were in the possession of FNM via electricity producer Slovenské Elektrárne. The smaller package could be sold only with the agreement of the Economy Ministry. Rusko said the latter shares were not sold at that time.
Rusko says the FNM-held package was sold following an agreement between the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) nominees on FNM's decision-making body. Rusko later told the government that he would not comply with the government's decision to sell 100 percent of the shares. The government commissioned him with preparing an analysis on why he did not sell the shares. The analysis, submitted to the government in April of that year, stated that the sale was disadvantageous. Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda (SDKÚ) then proposed that the analysis should be withdrawn.
Rusko claims that the police accusation against him concerns a government session on the matter in June 2004. The investigators said that he should have submitted the analysis again. Rusko stated that this would no longer have made sense as the government had already made a final decision on the sale of PPC. The former minister further stressed that he cannot provide evidence that the sale of the 90-percent stake was disadvantageous. But he said the remaining 10 percent was sold three years later for more than €19 million, which was three times as much as the amount from 2004.
Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic (KDH) claims that the state lost at least €42 million on the sale of PPC to the Penta financial group between 2005 and 2006. "Mr Rusko has been accused by the investigator and the Prosecutor's Office, not by me. I don't determine the investigation tactics and I never comment on the defence of the accused. Every accused person, including Mr. Rusko, has the right to choose the kind of defence they want," said Lipšic.
The details of the accusations against Rusko have not been released and according to Lipšic's spokesman, Gábor Grendel, it is up to the investigator to decide how much of the case should be made public. Rusko's arrest last week is the first stemming from the release of the so-called Gorilla files, taped transcripts of Slovak Intelligence Service eavesdropping, pointing to corruption and cronyism in Slovak politics.
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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