CZ/SK verze

Bogdan Heczko is running for the head of ČD: Bazala's closest associate, shares in companies, and billion-dollar contracts. Will the old gang take over the national carrier?

Bogdan Heczko is running for the head of ČD: Bazala's closest associate, shares in companies, and billion-dollar contracts. Will the old gang take over the national carrier?
photo: Archives/Bogdan Heczko
15 / 03 / 2022

Who will be the new CEO of ČD? Controversial candidates have entered the race for the head of the national carrier. The daily newspaper E15 confirmed that one of them must be Bogdan Heczko, who is historically strongly related to the former head of ČD and ČD Cargo Bazala, the billionaire Holeček, or the Šušek brothers, the Ostrava railway entrepreneurs.

The RAILTARGET editorial team regularly monitors the latest developments regarding personnel changes at ČD. We first reported on the candidacy of Michal Krapince, the current head of ČD Telematics (read here), and the possible candidacy of Miroslav Kupec (read here). The daily newspaper E15 confirmed this information in its article. Meanwhile, we were the first to exclusively bring you a full review of all the candidates being talked about behind the scenes (read here). However, the information about Bogdan Heczko's candidacy was verified by the editorial board from only one source, so we consider the article from the daily E15 to be a confirmation of RAILTARET's sources.

Josef Bazala's closest associate

Bogdan Heczko is no newcomer to ČD. He was brought to the management of ČD Cargo by the then-head of the freight carrier, Josef Bazala. Heczko took the position of Chief Financial Officer and became a member of ČD Cargo's Board of Directors. Their relationship was so close that Heczko was identified by then Transport Minister Řebíček as one of Bazala's closest collaborators.

Heczko thus won a seat on the board of directors of the national freight carrier and stayed there for three years even though he was in a completely obvious conflict of interest. This, of course, did not go unnoticed by the media, which repeatedly pointed out his ties to billionaire René Holeček, a key player in Čechofracht (later AWT Čechofracht). At that time, the company was in a very close business relationship with ČD Cargo, from which it leased wagons for its transportations.

In addition, Heczko used to hold the very important position of Chief Financial Officer at ČD Cargo. His agenda included the billion-dollar invoices of the controversial Šušek businessmen, whose cooperation on state contracts reached its peak during Bazala's leadership of the national carrier (we wrote about it here).

Heczko's and Bazala's tenure at ČD Cargo was intertwined until the last moment. The end of Bazala's leadership in 2010 as a result of the scandal with the sale of wagons and ČD Cargo's poor economic results meant the dismissal of Bogdan Heczko from the freight carrier's board of directors. At the same time, the golden age of the Šušek brothers' business was over as well. In the following years, their order volumes declined. The new management of ČD Cargo also discovered several shortcomings in the timely performance and quality of work of the Ostrava repair and maintenance plant, which belonged to the Šuskas. The tense situation culminated in 2019 when OOS was put on the so-called black list of ČD Cargo, where very unreliable suppliers are published. The Šušek brothers' protracted financial problems began with a drain on government contracts. If Bogdan Heczko became the CEO of ČD, the Šušeks' financial situation could be significantly revived. Is this the goal of the influential groups around Josef Bazala?

Billionaire René Holeček's henchman

As we have already mentioned above, at the time when Heczko sat on the Board of Directors of ČD Cargo, he was in a direct conflict of interest. His other business activities were directly linked to the billionaire René Holeček, who was a member and even chairman of the supervisory board of Čechofracht. The media even speculated that he was one of its owners. Officially the company was owned by an anonymous firm from the Cayman Islands.

Heczko had a joint company with billionaire Holeček, ITeuro, which dealt with corporate information systems. Heczko officially managed and co-owned the company, but Holeček had a majority share. Heczko's relationship with Holeček culminated in many years of service at Česká zbrojovka, which is owned by the billionaire Holeček. Heczko held high managerial positions there.

One of the original privatizers of Třinec Iron Works Inc., Holeček, had friendly relations with Bazala himself. They also had a business relationship that eventually broke the Bazala's neck. In 2006, Bazala, as CEO of ČD, sold 500 coal wagons to Čechofracht. The latter repaired the wagons and subsequently gave them to its subsidiary Speditrans, which leased them back to ČD Cargo. According to Jiří Vodička, the former chairman of ČD Cargo's board of directors, this should have caused the state freight carrier a loss of CZK 326 million. Moreover, the profits of the state-owned freight carrier declined under Bazala's leadership, while the earnings of companies that cooperated intensively with ČD Cargo rose. However, the profit of Speditrans, formerly owned by Bazala, rose the most. Before he joined the national carrier, he sold it to Čechofracht, which, according to media speculation at the time, was to be co-owned by the billionaire Holeček.

Based on the above it can be assumed that Heczko may be a low-profile man on the sidelines whom his influential network of contacts might want to appoint to a key position of ČD head. This scenario could be confirmed by Heczko's statement to E15, in which he said that he applied for the tender because he found out that there was a demand for his participation in the procedure. Could it have been a demand from the billionaire Holeček?  

Links to Jiří Minka

As we have informed you many times before, Jiří Minka is a member of the Supervisory Board of ČD, who has already become a questionable figure. It started with his opaque nomination and continues with suspicions of a conflict of interest (we wrote about here). For completeness of these ties, it is important to mention that Minka was secretly nominated to the Supervisory Board by TOP 09, to which both the "grey eminence of Czech railways" Bazala and the controversial businessmen Šuškovs have ties. These are the same names we described in the cobweb of Bogdan Heczko's relationship.

It is interesting that Minka is still listed in the public registers as a member of the supervisory board of AWT Čechofracht (we wrote about it here), i.e. the original Čechofracht, where the billionaire René Holeček, who may have been one of the owners of this company, served as chairman of the supervisory board. AWT Čechofracht is now part of the Polish state-owned carrier PKP empire, which is a direct competitor to both ČD and ČD Cargo.

The links described above could thus reveal an attempt at systematic control of ČD by business groups whose activities have historically been linked to huge contracts with the national carrier.