Probe into former CEZ chief closed without charges

By bne IntelliNews March 30, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

Czech anti-corruption police have closed an investigation into former CEZ CEO Martin Roman's alleged conflict of interest in awarding over €1bn worth of contracts to a company he has been accused of owning. The case was closed without charges being brought, the Prague state attorney announced on March 29.

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek ordered the probe in October, just after Prime Minister Petr Necas suddenly dismissed Roman from his post at the state-controlled energy giant without offering any reason. However, documents soon surfaced in the media that it was claimed showed that Roman - via a web of offshore companies surrounding murky power holding Appian - was an owner of Skoda Power, the company he led before being appointed to lead CEZ in 2004.

However, the investigation reports that it has found no irregularities in the 39 contracts - worth CZK26.4bn (€1.06bn) - that CEZ handed Skoda Power during Roman's tenure, reports Reuters. The probe also failed to demonstrate that Roman had affected procurement decisions in favor of Skoda or pushed other benefits its way, reports CTK. "The state attorney studied the police decision and accepted it," attorney office spokeswoman Stepanka Zenklova said.

Despite the accusations, the ripples of which have spread through the country with the public increasingly suspicious of corruption at the highest levels, Roman remains supervisory board chairman at CEZ. He was succeeded as CEO by long-time ally Daniel Benes, who was charged with overseeing internal investigations into several issues that rose to prominence during Roman's time leading the company. CEZ gave itself a clean bill of health on all counts.

The failure of investigations to find any evidence of corruption or other criminal behaviour in several alleged cases involving Appian and CEZ - in which the state owns just below 70% - over the last several years has provoked widespread suspicion that senior government officials may be involved.

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