Friday, 24 November 2017

LN: Zeman consults about foreign trips with billionaire

ČTK |
13 March 2017

Prague, March 10 (CTK) - The Tuesday meeting between Milos Zeman and richest Czech Petr Kellner gives rise to the question of why the president consults the "Dutch businessman of Czech origin" about his official visits to the U.S., China and Russia, Istvan Leko writes in Lidove noviny (LN) on Friday.

Leko calls Kellner a Dutch businessman of Czech origin because the mother holding of his PPF Group N.V. with assets worth many dozens of billions of euros has its seat in Amsterdam.

Did Zeman ask Kellner why the centre of his company has its seat outside the Czech Republic? Is it because of tax optimisation or for other reasons and what? Leko writes and adds that Zeman undoubtedly forgot to raise these questions.

Another question Zeman's meeting with Kellner provokes is whether the PPF financial group is one of the official places contributing their comments on Czech foreign policy, Leko writes.

He writes that according to a brief statement by Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek, Zeman and Kellner discussed "economic relations with the United States, the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation, which the president plans to visit this year."

When asked who initiated the meeting, he gave an inconclusive reply, Leko writes.

"The meeting took place based on mutual agreement and that is why the press release only said the president received Mr Petr Kellner," Ovcacek said and did not rule out that Kellner will accompany Zeman on some of the trips mentioned above.

Leko writes that Kellner accompanied Zeman on his official visit to the Chinese president in 2014 and Zeman returned home aboard a plane leased by the PPF and J&T financial groups.

This year, Zeman may introduce the "powerful" Czech billionaire to the Russian and U.S. presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, Leko writes.

He writes that particularly a handshake with Trump, who himself is a rich financier, would be most important for Kellner because he has not yet asserted himself in the United States unlike communist or half-dictatorial regimes in the East, where he evidently feels very well.

Kellner cannot be blamed for anything because he has not done anything bad. He has only made use of a very weak president to push through his private interests, Leko writes.

Unwittingly he sent out a very strong signal between the lines of the brief news about his meeting with Zeman of who is the biggest economic (and consequently political) power in the Czech Republic, Leko writes.

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