Thursday, 19 January 2017

Fine for hockey champion Růžička over corruption upheld

ČTK |
12 January 2017

Prague, Jan 11 (CTK) - The financial penalty of 400,000 crowns for a Czech hockey coach, a former national team star Vladimir Ruzicka, who kept half a million crowns that were to be sent to the Slavia Praha club is valid, the Prague Municipal Court ruled on Wednesday, turning down Ruzicka's appeal.

If Ruzicka does not pay the sum, he will be sent to prison for 16 months.

Ruzicka can still file a recourse with the Supreme Court. His lawyers declined to comment on further steps on Wednesday.

Ruzicka, who faced up to five years in prison and who resigned as the national team's coach, dismisses any wrongdoing.

According to the indictment, Ruzicka received sponsorship gifts from businessman Miroslav Palascak at the Eden winter stadium in Prague in the spring of 2012 and in May 2013, which were worth 250,000 crowns each time.

Ruzicka allegedly did not deliberately hand the money to the club, kept it for himself and used it as if it was his own.

In April 2015, Palascak released a video recording indicating that Ruzicka accepted a bribe of half a million crowns from him for enabling his son to play for Slavia.

Ruzicka only returned the money when explicitly asked by Palascak in November 2014, when he no longer worked for Slavia, from his wife's account.

Ruzicka, currently coach of the Ice Hockey Extraleague club of Chomutov, admits that he accepted the money. He says it was not included in the club's accounting because Palascak was to hand to him the necessary documents on the amount, which he did not do, however.

Ruzicka coached the Czech national ice hockey team in 2004-2005, 2008-2010 and 2014-2015. When he was an active player, he played with the Czech team at three Olympic hockey tournaments and at five World Championships. The highlight of his career as a forward was his captaincy of the team that won Nagano Olympics in 1998.

"It is sad that the ice hockey legend Vladimir Ruzicka has appeared in such a situation. It is substantial that he has realised this and that he is giving the money back," judge Eva Burianova said.

"However, this does not mean that he may not be punished," she added.

It is decisive that the gift never reached the recipient, Burianova said.

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