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Coal to cash

Czech money-laundering case opens

The trial of five Czech citizens and one Belgian accused of money laundering via a Czech coal mining company has begun before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona.

The six defendants are accused of having bought up 97 per cent of the Czech Mostecka Uhelna Spolecnost (MUS) coal company’s shares and then manipulated stock prices to their advantage through offshore schemes.

Today, MUS is part of the larger Czech Coal Group, which is serving as a plaintiff in the case.

Although the company in question is Czech, the trial is taking place in Switzerland in part because a significant chunk of the money passed through Swiss banks and because the case was first brought to light by a Lausanne businessman in 2004.

Since 2005, the federal prosecutor has seized more than CHF660 million ($691million) in funds that allegedly passed through Swiss banks as part of a massive international money laundering operation.

One of the accused is a Czech-Swiss dual citizen based in Fribourg at the time who allegedly used lump-sum taxation to handle some of the funds in question.

The Czech Republic was invited to act as a plaintiff in the case but chose not to; therefore, it will not benefit from any repayments that may result from the trial.

The first part of the trial is expected to last until May 24 before beginning again mid-June. A verdict is expected on July 12. and agencies