The Czech Connection

In John le Carré’s later novels like “The Night Manager”, there’s a character who keeps popping up – the financial fixer/lawyer to the international moneyed elite, who sits at the back of the private jet but in front of his wealthy and often shady clients as a buffer. Money flows seamlessly between front companies registered in offshore havens from Cyprus to the Caribbean, all overseen by a ubiquitous company director, who also happens to be this lawyer.
Author Chris Morgan Jones based his 2011 debut novel, “An Agent of Deceit”, around such a character, whom he describes as an unglamorous middleman who sets up the network of companies and monitors the flow of cash through that network. Ultimately, Morgan Jones tells bne, “the client and middleman become locked in a mutually binding relationship from which neither can escape.”
One of the more interesting connections thrown up by recent revelations in the Czech Republic concerning the money-laundering case of coal miner Mostecka uhelna spolecnost (MUS) is the link with Russia, Ukraine and the lawyer Markus Buechel. Buechel, currently Russia’s honorary consul to Liechtenstein, seems to have carved out quite a niche for himself in Central and Eastern Europe as a director of various offshore companies since his brief stint as prime minister of Liechtenstein in the early 1990s.
Over the last six months, the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) has published a series of revelations about the controversial privatisation of the Czech coal miner MUS in 1998, which saw the murky Appian Group, whose true ownership remains elusive, wrestle ownership control of the company from the state.In October, the Swiss authorities announced they had launched criminal proceedings against “seven people suspected of money laundering and economic crime in connection with controlling one of the most important energy companies in the Czech Republic”.
According to various news outlets that have seen the indictment, the energy company in question is MUS, now known as Czech Coal, and the people charged are former directors of the company, together with third-parties, who are also suspected of being at the same time the owners of Appian. Around €500m in local bank accounts have been frozen in connection with the case, which is suspected of having been syphoned off from MUS.



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