Firm Responsible For Becva River Poisoning Will Not Be Punished, Says Court

Judge Ludmila Gerlova ruled that the company was not criminally responsible in this case. Credit: Freepik (illustrative photo)

Vsetin, South Moravia, Oct 23 (CTK) – The Vsetin District Court today ruled that the Energoaqua company caused the poisoning of the Becva River in September 2020. However, its director Oldrich Havelka was acquitted of the poisoning charges, and the company will not be punished.

The verdict has not yet taken effect.

“The court has concluded that the Energoaqua company caused the disaster on the Becva River,” said judge Ludmila Gerlova. However, she added that the company was not criminally responsible in this case.

The judge said it has not been established what exactly happened in the company before the poisoning.

However, it is still possible that Energoaqua could have committed an offence, and so the court handed the case to the Czech Environmental Inspectorate (CIZP).

After the verdict was issued, Havelka again rejected the accusation that the firm caused the disaster, telling journalists there was no evidence for this. “I have not received any evidence that the firm did it. And if the judge has some pieces of evidence that show this, I don’t know them or I did not understand them,” he said. Havelka also welcomed his acquittal over the charges.

Public prosecutor Jiri Sachr said the poisonous substances that killed tons of fish and other life in the river were cyanides and hexavalent chromium.

The environmental accident afflicted a 40-km section of the Becva River on 20 September 2020.

Havelka faced up to five years in prison and the company faced a fine and ban on its operations due to the damaging and endangering of the environment.

The company’s representative Vladimír Kurka and Havelka repeatedly pleaded innocent and called for acquittal of the charges, arguing that there was no evidence proving the guilt of the company and its director.

Sachr said Havelka decided on changes to the company’s use of lagoons, which meant that they could not prevent insufficiently cleaned water from flowing from the lagoons into the river.

The court proceedings began in January 2023 and the trial has been closely followed by the Czech media. Dozens of witnesses gave their testimonies and several experts assessed the case. The file on the case has some 7,000 pages.

The police concluded, on the basis of an expert opinion, that the cyanides had got into the river through a canal from Roznov pod Radhostem that flowed into the Becva in the town of Valasske Mezirici. Energoaqua, which operates the compound of the former Tesla company, is seated in Roznov pod Radhostem.

However, some fishermen and experts considered this account as nonsense, as the first fish started dying in the river more than three kilometres from the canal outfall, meaning the poison must have leaked much closer to the place where the first dead fish appeared. The Deza chemical plant is one of the companies with its outfall closer to this.

Nearly 40 tons of fish died in the river in the section between Valasske Mezirici and Prerov.

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