Ex-deputy culture minister files complaint over murky deals at Prague State Opera

Politics & Policy|Society
Marie Reslová | 11.06.2012

Following the May 2010 parliamentary elections, responsibility for the performing arts fell to Czech deputy culture minister Radek Zdráhal. He didn’t like what he saw at the Prague State Opera — losses and less than transparent management. That was one reason he and the culture minister at the time, Jiří Besser (TOP 09), were cool on the idea of the institution’s merger with the Czech National Theater.

His suspicions centered on nontransparent ticket sales, theater rentals and contracts to external entities; compounding it was the fact that much of the documentation from the Prague State Opera’s archives was missing. On June 1, he filed a criminal complaint against an unknown perpetrator in connection with the activities at the venerable institution from 1998 to 2010.

Several months before his resignation this May, Zdráhal and his colleague Daniela Gadasová attempted to fully trace the opera’s financial flows and business agreements. They came to the conclusion that a contributory organization established by the Culture Ministry could in the long term result in breaches of duty in managing properties.

The blame would then most likely fall on the management of the Prague State Opera at the time, namely its directors during the period of 1998 to 2010, Daniel Dvořák and Jaroslav Vocelka, and their associates, due to unfavorable contracts held without a tender.

Zdráhal filed the complaint as a private person soon after his resignation as deputy culture minister. It is unclear why the ministry itself did not take legal action; if the complain proves justified, it will have failed in more than just its oversight duties.

Besser, who was pushed to resign in December 2011 after he failed to divulge a business relationship with a convicted felon and list his partial ownership of a Florida property with him, told Czech Position he had not had sufficient evidence of possible irregularities at the Prague State Opera to take legal action.

His successor, Culture Minister Alena Hanáková (TOP 09-STAN) has yet to respond to Czech Position’s questions on the matter. 

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