Czech energy regulator offical admits negligence in solar fraud case

By bne IntelliNews April 26, 2016

Senior Czech Energy Regulator Office (ERU) official Ilona Florianova, who could face up to 12 years in prison for fraud, testified in court on April 26 that she had erred in granting a licence to a solar plant on December 31, 2010, just hours before a generous subsidy programme ended, local media reported.

“If I had only taken a holiday or called in sick I would have spared myself criminal prosecution,” Florianova said, denying that she had favoured any applicant for the lucrative licences, E15 reported on April 26. An ongoing investigation by Czech anti-corruption police into the awarding of solar plant licences led to the conviction in February of ERU chairwoman Alena Vitaskova, who has appealed her 8.5 year sentence.

In August 2013, the police began investigating a consulting company in which Florianova holds a senior position that helps solar investors pass ERU inspections. The consultancy, Czech Energy Info, is run by Pavel Prouza, a chief adviser to Vitaskova.

Florianova told the Regional Court in Brno that she had made an “honest mistake” while under extreme stress from working 12-hour days and on weekends to process up to 30 licence applications in the days ahead of the deadline.

At least seven entrepreneurs and building contractors have been convicted as a result of the ongoing police investigation. The accounts of CEZ Obnovitelne zdroje, the renewables unit of Prague-listed utility CEZ, were partially frozen by the Czech anti-corruption police earlier this month, under suspicion that illegal payments and fees had been paid to non-transparent companies to acquire solar plants.

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