01 December 2005 17:42 [Source: ICIS news]
PRAGUE (ICIS news)--Tomas Pitr, widely regarded as the ‘boss’ of Czech biodiesel additives supplier Setuza and under fire for his alleged role in the ongoing Unipetrol affair, received on Wednesday an eight and a half year prison sentence for his part in a VAT scam.
The sentence, handed down by Prague City Court, was the longest ever passed against a well-known Czech entrepreneur. The fraud involved tax evasion of more than Koruna58m ($2.3m/Euro2m) in connection with a fictitious company set up with a Czech-American businessman for importing sugar plant equipment.
Pitr pleaded not guilty and lodged an appeal after the verdict. The entrepreneur, who always styles himself as ‘consultant’ when asked about his Setuza role, even though local media insist he calls the shots, has come into conflict with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek twice in recent months. On emerging from the court, he insisted to reporters that this had influenced the judge when he decided on the severest possible sentencing.
In September, Paroubek said Pitr was one of a group of entrepreneurs who had stirred up corruption allegations regarding the Koruna14.7bn privatisation of petrochemicals and oil group Unipetrol. Commentators said that if the privatisation were to collapse, Setuza might stand to gain some Unipetrol assets.
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