Ex-minister Bárta may face corruption charges

Czech police ready to press corruption charges against de facto Public Affairs (VV) leader Vít Bárta over ‘cash for loyalty’ payments

Politics & Policy
Tom Jones | 08.06.2011
Prior to the ‘cash for loyalty’ allegations and revelations about his security firm, Vít Bárta was seen as a rising star in Czech politics. The police academy graduate has since lost practically all public trust, polls show

Police have prepared corruption charges against de facto Public Affairs (VV) leader Vít Bárta for allegedly giving cash payments to party colleagues in return for their loyalty, the server aktualne.cz reported on Wednesday, citing two anonymous sources well acquainted with the investigation.

Bárta claims he gave the cash payments to MPs Jaroslav Škárka and Kristýna Kočí, who have both since left the VV, as personal loans. Police have reportedly reached a different conclusion. According to aktualne.cz’s anonymous sources, investigators are leaning towards the testimony of Škárka and Kočí, who have lodged criminal complaints against Bárta for bribery. “The investigation is leading to charges of corruption and also of a criminal offense in the area of taxation,” a source told the news server.

Bárta resigned as transport minister shortly after the two MPs lodged charges and the daily Mladá fronta dnes published recordings and other evidence of him having entered politics with the main aim of securing business for ABL, the private detective agency and security firm that he founded. However, he went on to stand for the VV leadership in May, losing to Radek John, the former interior minister.

According to aktualne.cz’s information, anti-corruption police have until mid-July to conclude their investigation, but they want to hand their findings to the prosecution service at the end of June with a recommendation to press charges against Bárta. Anti-corruption police and public prosecution service spokespersons have refused to comment on the report on the grounds that the investigation has not been concluded. Bárta himself also refused comment: “I have vying information and opinions about this,” he told the server.

Reportedly, one of the reasons the investigation does not accept Bárta’s explanation of the payments — amounting to hundreds of thousands of crowns — to Kočí and Škárka, who handed the cash to the police, is that he has no written agreement or documented evidence that the payments were personal loans.

The “cash for loyalty” scandal and the subsequent reports about Bárta’s designs for ABL also led to John’s resignation and caused a crisis within the ruling coalition that has yet to be fully resolved.

Public Affairs is the smallest of the three coalition parties. Following the resignations of Kočí, Škárka and also Stanislav Huml in April, the party now has 21 MPs in the 200-seat lower house of parliament (Chamber of Deputies). 

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