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Panama Papers connect PM’s friend with oligarchs

A company whose owner is mentioned in the Panama Papers owns one-third of luxurious hotel DoubleTree by Hilton.

DoubleTree by Hilton in Bratislava(Source: SME)

Miroslav Výboh, an alleged sponsor of the coalition Smer party who is also described as a friend of Prime Minister Robert Fico, may own some shares of the luxurious hotel DoubleTree by Hilton, built close to the Winter Stadium of Ondrej Nepela in Bratislava.

According to the revelations published by the Aktuality.sk and Etrend.sk websites, a company which in the past acquired two firms owned by Výboh owns the shares in the hotel. The businessman admits he knows the names mentioned in the Panama Papers, but rejects owning the shares in the hotel into whose construction the Tehelné Pole firm, close to oligarch Juraj Široký invested, the Sme daily reported.

Back in 2011, when Slovakia was preparing for the world ice hockey championship in Bratislava, the Fico government decided to support the construction of the new ice hockey stadium. The plans were later dismissed and they invested €40.6 million into reconstruction of the existing Winter Stadium of Ondrej Nepela.

During the reconstruction, the construction of the hotel close to the stadium began. It is still not clear how much it cost. There was also a suspicion that part of the public finances was used for constructing it, Sme reported. The daily also pointed to the 2011 revelations of the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) which found that within the reconstruction of the stadium also road infrastructure around the hotel was paid for with public funds.

The hotel is currently owned by Tehelné Pole company. Originally, the city of Bratislava owned 40 percent, in exchange for renting the plots under the hotel for a symbolic price. The company was to pay €33.19 a year for 50 years, though NKÚ said that at the time the market rental price for such a plot was nearly €29,000. With such a step, the city violated the law.  

Moreover, after the ice hockey championship the majority shareholder of Tehelné Pole wanted to increase the basic capital of the firm. As a result, the city of Bratislava was required to pour money into the firm or decrease its share. The city eventually decided to sell all of its shares, for which it received more than €1 million, Sme wrote.

At the time, Tehelné Pole owed €18 million to other firms belonging to Široký’s portfolio. The firms then sold the claims to other, unknown firms in December 2013. Half of the claims went to a company owned by oligarch Jozef Brhel, while the rest went to a shell company with unclear ownership structure. Tehelné Pole agreed with them that it will not pay off the debt with cash, but rather by selling them its own shares. As a result, company E-Group owned by Brhel became a shareholder in 2014, Sme reported. Brhel and Široký are family as their children are married, the daily reported.

Read also:Money from health insurer could be in Bahamas

Another shareholder became Bratislava-based KSYL Slovakia, owned by several shell firms. One of them is Seychelles-based FiSoLi, according to Aktuality.sk. This company was once owned by Enterprise Solutions, which in the past acquired two firms owned by Výboh.

“I do not know Enterprise Solutions, I have never owned it, used it services or been its final beneficiary,” Výboh told Aktuality.sk.

According to the Trend weekly, however, he later remembered about the firm, saying it was “another licenced company which served as a shareholder”. He specified that the company acts as a professional administrator of shares in several other firms.

This, however, is not direct proof that Výboh owned Enterprise Solutions, said head of the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism Pavla Holcová.

“But it is a company which often appears in offshore schemes of Miroslav Výboh,” she added, as quoted by Sme.

Výboh also claims that he has nothing in common with the shareholder of the hotel, company KSYL. Both Brhel and Široký have refused to comment on the information that Výboh may have owned shares in the hotel, the daily reported.

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Topic: Corruption & scandals


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