Prague, Aug 11 (CTK) – Czech hockey coach Vladimir Ruzicka refused on Thursday to give testimony at court which started to deal with his case in which he has been charged with embezzlement when he accepted half a million crowns and did not enter it in Slavia Praha’s books.

Ruzicka, 53, was captain of the national team that won the gold medals in Nagano in 1998. He was the national team’s coach in 2004-05, 2008-10 and in 2014-15.

At the court yesterday, Ruzicka blamed the mistakes made on businessman Miroslav Palascak who unleashed hise scandal.

Ruzicka faces up to five years in prison or a financial punishment, possibly a ban on sport activities, if found guilty.

The scandal was revealed before last year’s World Championship in Prague and Ostrava, north Moravia, in which Ruzicka coached the Czech team.

In April 2015, a recording which Palascak made secretly during his previous meeting with Ruzicka who then coached Slavia was released.

Palascak claims that he gave Ruzicka money to secure a place for his son on the team. Ruzicka later returned the sum to Palascak.

Ruzicka, who now coaches the Extraleague team of Chomutov, only made on Thursday a one-minute statement in which he dismissed any guilt. On the advice of his lawyers, he refused to give testimony and asked the court to continue in his absence.

In connection with the case, Ruzicka has quit the national team. The police accused him of embezzlement in January and three months later, detectives proposed that charges should be brought against him.

The dispute between Ruzicka and Palascak also had another line, in which Ruzicka filed a complaint against Palascak. He said Palascak wanted him to pay to him for having marred his son’s hockey career when he was still Slavia’s coach. The police shelved the case.

After the case broke out, the Czech Ice Hockey Association extended its cooperation with Transparency International in order to protect sport from corruption.

The Chomutov team said previously it will honour the presumption of innocence principle until Ruzicka’s case is completed.