Prague - Škoda Plzeň, a Czech industrial giant that has received billions in public contracts in the last years, moved its seat to Marshall Islands.
The island country is known as one of the three countries in the world best suited for keeping the ownership structure of a company secret.
This move was made amid efforts of Czech police to look into the ownership structure of the company. Acting on evidence found by investigators in Switzerland, police is examining a possibility that among the real owners of Škoda Plzeň may be Martin Roman, who recently stepped down as the CEO of ČEZ, a Czech energy giant.
Roman has categorically denied having any direct or indirect ownership role in Škoda Plzeň.
The allegation that Roman is one of the owners of Škoda Plzeň is very serious, because in the last five years, Škoda Plzeň has received CZK 20bil (approximately EUR 800mil) in public contracts from state-owned ČEZ, directed until last month by Roman. His position in both companies would thus constitute a huge conflict of interest.
The fact that Škoda Plzeň moved to the Pacific is proved by a Cyprus trade register statement Aktualne.cz has at its disposition.
A company named Maranex Finance Ltd. registered in Marshall Islands owns 6,800 shares of Skoda Industry (Europe) Ltd., a company registered in Cyprus. Another 13,200 shares of the same Cyprian company is owned by Conitor Terra Ltd. from Guernsey, a British island.
And since March 2011, Skoda Industry (Europe) Ltd. is the only owner of Škoda Transportation - a parent company to several other Czech firms linked to Škoda Plzeň.
The official owners of Škoda Transportation are their managers Tomáš Krsek and Martin Korecký together with their colleagues from an allied company Appian - Jiří Diviš and Marek Čmejla.
Škoda Transportation admitted that its shares are held by Conitor and Maranex. However, the company said that the only shareholders of the two mentioned companies are Krsek, Korecký, Diviš and Čmejla - the official owners of Škoda Transportation.
However, the commercial code in Marshall Islands and, to a lesser degree, in Guernsey makes it impossible to verify the real ownership structure of companies registered in the countries, unless the owners themselves allow it.
Aktuálně.cz asked the four managers and official owners of Plzeň Transportation to reveal documents proving their ownership roles in Coniter and Maranex, but they refused. And they could refuse even if they were asked by police investigators. In other words, there is no way to verify the real owners of Coniter and Maranex.