Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that Slovak national lottery company Tipos had previously illegally used the trademarks of former Czechoslovak betting company Sportka, which means Tipos will now have to cough up at least EUR 14 million for the Cyprus-based company Lemikon Limited, which took over the claim from Sportka in November 2008.
Lemikon was demanding EUR 66 million from Tipos and could still get it, because the Supreme Court passed the overturned parts of the claim back to the court of first instance for re-examination, meaning Lemikon can still try to demand the remaining EUR 52 million from Tipos.
The latest development comes in the shadow of the brutal murder of prominent lawyer, Ernest Valko, who was said to be taking over representation of the state in the case in place of Ludovit Krupa, who was unexpectedly withdrawn and who did not wish to comment on the reasons for his withdrawal.
A close friend of Valko who wished to remain anonymous, told Hospodarske noviny that Valko had serious concerns about the case, with Valko himself referring to it as “a real dirty affair”.
Former head of the Anti-corruption Office, Jozef Satek, had no doubt that Valko’s murder was to do with big money, pointing specifically to the Tipos case. Satek told Hospodarske noviny that: “This was a contract killing, with the clear objective of halting Valko in his work so he would not thwart the perpetrator or party ordering his murder from getting their hands on big money”.
Before the June elections, Lemikon was claiming damages of around EUR 66.5 million, which finance minister at the time Jan Pociatek acknowledged and was willing to pay. Speculations about ties between Lemikon and Pociatek, among others, lie in the fact that the company has the same Cyprus address as finance group J&T, with which Pociatek has close ties, having been their guest on a luxury yacht right before the central parity exchange rate of the Slovak koruna was set to the euro (certain companies made a lot of money buying up koruna before the official rate was announced, and Pociatek had to withstand a no-confidence motion in parliament over the affair).
Security expert Milan Zitny, a friend of Valko, also feels that his murder could be associated with the EUR 67 million Tipos affair. Zitny also confirmed that Valko “had serious concerns with regard to Tipos”. Zitny explained that Valko had told him that “they want a percentage”, without saying who or in connection with what.
The state could possibly push Tipos into bankruptcy, which would render the claim of Lemikon almost unenforceable, but in this 10 year old case with its many twists and turns, just about anything could happen it seems.