Credit: Vlá

Czech PM Fiala Faces Fine For Undeclared Stake In Credit Union

According to a report today from Seznam Zpravy, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) omitted to declare in his asset declaration that he was the owner of a stake in the Podnikatelska druzstevni zalozna (PDZ) credit union. He now faces a potential fine of CZK 50,000 for the error.

The website reported that it had uncovered this during an investigation into suspicious financial transactions at the financial institution. The prime minister said he had a current account at the credit union and did not realise this also meant he had a share in the company. Writing on Twitter, Fiala added earlier that he has begun looking into how the situation can be rectified and will ask for the missing information to be added.

Politicians and high-ranking state officials are required to submit asset declarations every year under the conflict of interest law.

Fiala told Seznam Zpravy that he had not realised until the query that a credit union account meant a shareholding. “I thought of it as a regular bank account. My mistake, I’m sorry,” he said.

Fiala said it was a normal banking transaction. “I had an account there from June 2015 to November 2020. I deposited the money in two steps, first CZK 700,000 and then CZK 250,000. I did not use any financial products, I only had an account. Depositing and withdrawing the money was done by wire transfer,” he said.

According to the report, Fiala included much smaller sums in his property statement at the time. In his initial declaration in 2017, he mentioned a Toyota car worth CZK 700,000 and a consumer loan of CZK 280,000. From October to the end of that year, he then declared a salary at Masaryk University of CZK 139,796 and a consumer loan of CZK 140,000. He did not mention his stake in the credit union of almost CZK 1 million, even in the following years, Seznam Zprávy reported.

Later, the server reported that businessman Pavel Wurst, who had been a shareholder in PDZ for years, filed a criminal complaint against the credit union’s management on suspicion of money laundering, and informed Fiala’s electoral staff about the situation in 2020.

“I cancelled the account in autumn 2020 in connection with our family’s decision to buy an apartment in Brno. I only remember some information from the period before the elections that there might be some kind of dispute,” Fiala told Seznam Zprávy.

According to the server, the police did not deal with Wurst’s complaints, but are now doing so. The news server quoted Dagmar Schejbalova, a spokeswoman for the credit union, dismissing any suggestions that the credit union was acting in violation of the law.

A credit union differs from a classic bank, in that anyone who wants an account there must be a member of the credit union and own a credit union share. Fiala was one of these. Last year, Seznam Zpravy began investigating the credit union’s suspicious financial operations, when, according to the server’s reports, CZK 140 million in cash intended for the purchase of ammunition for Ukraine disappeared from the credit union.

According to Fiala’s statement on Twitter, he has personally been to the credit union about three times in five years. “I did not investigate other clients of the bank, I don’t even know that I had the opportunity, but to tell you the truth, I would not have thought of such a thing. What was important to me was the recommendation I had, the fact that the accounts are insured by default and the guarantee is a CNB licence,” he said.

The Prime Minister will now likely have to pay for the omission. Under the law, he faces a fine of up to CZK 50,000 and misdemeanour proceedings. “If the ministry discovers that the notification is suspected of being false or incomplete, it will refer the matter to the misdemeanour authorities,” said Justice Ministry spokesman Vladimir Repka.

Brno Daily Subscribe
Sign up for morning news in your mail