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Finance Ministry challenges state debt management in 2000s

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Prague, May 19 (CTK) – The Czech Finance Ministry has filed a criminal complaint about transactions from 2004, 2005 and 2009 that were related to the state debt management and that may have caused a damage of billions of crowns to the state, the ministry’s spokesman Michal Zurovec told CTK on Thursday.

Zurovec said the ministry would not provide further information on the case because of the investigation.

In 2002-06, the Finance Ministry was headed by Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), who is the current prime minister. In 2007-2009 and 2010-2013, it was headed by Miroslav Kalousek, now leader of the right-wing opposition TOP 09 party. From late 2009 to early 2010, unaffiliated Eduard Janota was the minister.

Sobotka said the relevant section of the Finance Ministry was in charge of the emissions of eurobonds in 2004 and 2005 and that the central bank also made its comments.

“I am not aware of any facts that should challenge the steps taken by the section after 12 years,” Sobotka told CTK.

He said the police must independently and consistently check the complaint.

Kalousek said he believes Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) wants to divert attention from the ministry’s present problems by the criminal complaint.

He said it is easy to label some step unfavourable in retrospective, but the people who make the decisions on the state debt always face a lot of uncertainty and must consider various possible risks.

“I would not dare to speak of deliberate crime,” Kalousek said.

Zurovec said the ministry’s internal audit of the management of the state debt revealed some controversial transactions. He said a Supreme Audit Office (NKU) check arrived at similar conclusions.

The ministry decided to file a criminal complaint so that the suspicion can be either refuted or confirmed, he said.

According to the NKU report released in March, the Czech state annually paid 200 million crowns in interests from the state debt more due to a supplement to a 2009 swap operation. The employees responsible for the supplement do not work at the ministry anymore, the ministry said in reaction.

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