March 22, 2018 / 11:19 AM / in 7 months

Czech president hopes Chinese investments will continue -paper

PRAGUE, March 22 (Reuters) - Czech President Milos Zeman hopes China will continue to invest in the Czech Republic, despite investigations of the chairman of CEFC China Energy, which has been on a buying spree in the Czech Republic in recent years.

In an interview with Mlada Fronta Dnes published on Thursday, Zeman said he did not know why CEFC founder and chairman Ye Jianming was being investigated in China, but that he has heard assurances CEFC will remain a flagship investor.

“I don’t know why (Ye is investigated). It is a matter of Chinese institutions, not mine. I don’t want to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Zeman told Mlada Fronta Dnes.

Zeman’s office confirmed last week Ye was being investigated and would be leaving the company. Ye also serves as an advisor to Zeman, who sent aides to Shanghai last week to look into the situation at CEFC.

“I was informed that this man left CEFC management and the reason why I sent my three envoys was to find out whether CEFC will continue as a flagship of Chinese investments in the Czech Republic. I have been assured that it will,” he said.

CEFC told Zeman’s delegation that Ye was leaving his post and the company’s shareholder structure. The Shanghai government and other state officials confirmed he was being investigated on “suspicion of breaking the law”, the presidential office said on Monday.

Reuters reported on March 1 that Ye Jianming has been investigated for suspected economic crimes, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Also on Monday, CEFC’s Czech-based unit CEFC Europe dropped its plan to increase its stake in Prague-based J&T financial group, a bank and investment vehicle. Zeman said he hoped the deal, which would have been CEFC’s biggest yet in the country, would go through.

He said he had spoken about the matter with Jiri Rusnok, the governor of the Czech National Bank, which must approve the transaction. Its spokeswoman said Rusnok spoke about the issue with Zeman at the end of last year.

“The governor gave the president a brief, general information that the (approval) process was in motion under standard rules and that there were certain administrative problems,” Marketa Fiserova said.

CEFC Europe should also get support from a new minority shareholder, China’s state-controlled CITIC, which will hold a 49 percent stake in the group, Zeman said.

“I hope that it will help Chinese expansion,” he said. (Reporting by Robert Muller, editing by Larry King)

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