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12.01.2006 General News

Ghana Embroilled In Czech Politics III


Rigo says USD50,000 sent to Ghana was Kraus's money PRAGUE, Jan 11 (CTK) - Businessman Frantisek Rigo said that the sum of USD50,000 transferred to Ghana in 2001 from the account of the mother of Social Democrats (CSSD) deputies' group head Michal Kraus belonged to Kraus, while Kraus said it was Rigo's money, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today.

"Kraus transferred the advance payment from the account of his mother. He told me then that he uses the account to fund the election campaign," Rigo told the paper.

Kraus's mother refused to comment on the issue.

Rigo is serving a 10-year prison sentence for a loan fraud worth 100 million crowns.

Kraus visited Ghana in September 2001 with controversial businessman Rigo and Austrian businessman Alfred Augustin and attended there talks on investments in the local cocoa beans processing plant.

Finally, the transaction was not materialised, MfD wrote earlier this week. It said that the police were investigating the role that Kraus played in the attempt to invest 15 million dollars into the Ghanaian plant.

Rigo told the paper that Kraus was his partner who was to invest the above 15 million dollars into the venture. Kraus allegedly told him that this was to be money from bribes from a large state order that, however, was continuously postponed.

However, Kraus dismissed Rigo's accusations. Kraus also dismissed the assertion that the 15 million dollars came from a bribe. He said that the project, including its funding, was only Rigo's matter.

However, Kraus confirmed in MfD on Monday that he signed an investment contract in Ghana. "I only signed it as a witness. I did not participate in the deal," Kraus said.

Kraus said that Rigo then appeared to be a trustworthy person to him and that he travelled to Ghana as a tourist in the first place.

However, he admitted that he met with the Ghanaian finance minister and attended several commercial talks thanks to Rigo's acquaintances.

Mlada fronta Dnes wrote on Tuesday that Ghanaian officials thought Kraus to be director of the ProAfri company, and not a tourist. ProAfri allegedly wanted to buy shares of the local cocoa beans processing plant, the paper said.

In an interview for Pravo on Tuesday Kraus said that shortly after they returned from Ghana, he offered to Rigo the savings bank account of his mother via which he was to transfer 50,000 dollars in Czech crowns.

Kraus said Rigo was to pay within a few hours a deposit under the contract that he signed in Ghana and that his own account was frozen by mistake.

MfD on Tuesday presented a copy of the contract which Kraus signed as ProAfri "director". Kraus said that he had no relation to the company and explained the word "director" by the euphoria that broke out after the signing.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek (CSSD) said that he supported Kraus and does not believe the accusations by Rigo.

Lawyer Vaclav Vlk told today's issue of the daily Lidove noviny (LN) that Kraus committed no crime as no damage was done due to his actions.

(USD1=23.870 crowns)