Prague prosecutor to probe claims of damaging finance ministry trades

By bne IntelliNews May 25, 2016

Prague Superior State Attorney Lenka Bradacova confirmed on May 25 that her office will investigate the recent criminal charges filed by the ministry of finance over what it claims were risky derivative trades and currency swaps carried out by the ministry in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

Such criminal charges would normally go to the city prosecutor, but due to the amount of the damages claimed – totalling billions of koruna – the case was transferred to Bradacova’s office, Hospodarske Noviny reports. The charges appear to be part of the ongoing background fight between current Finance Minister Andrej Babis - leader of junior coalition partner Ano - and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who as part of the Social Democrat administration led the ministry in 2002-06.

The finance ministry audit reportedly found that Deutsche Bank earned CZK3bn (€111mn) on a 2005 derivatives contract with the ministry that – instead of lowering the interest-rate and currency risk of the state – increased it. The total loss to the state at the signing of the contract has been estimated at CZK3.8bn. An immediate loss of CZK100mn-200mn on a contract with Morgan Stanley is also reported.

The ministry filed a criminal complaint against an unknown perpetrator because certain documents are missing; however, the charges are understood to be targeted at least indirectly at two former finance ministers. As well as Sobotka, Babis' sworn enemy Miroslav Kalousek, now chairman of the opposition TOP 09 party but finance minister in 2007-09, is understood to be in the crosshairs.

According to Hospodarske Noviny, Babis has known for at least a year that some speculative operations at the ministry were not in order. Kalousek has accused him of trying to divert attention from the ongoing probe into his Stork's Nest resort, which allegedly illegally received EU funds.

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