Why are politicians covering up over Key Investments?

The criminal and investigative balance from the Key Investments scandal suggests the real power brokers are keeping the lid on it

HOT TOP|Politics & Policy|Companies
István Léko | 30.05.2012
Former industry minister Martin Kocourek (ODS) looks like a token scapegoat in the Key Investments scandal

When the scandal around dubious Czech financial brokerage Key Investments exploded in January last year anyone who would have maintained that after some 18 months of police investigations the only person to be charged would be former minister of industry and trade Martin Kocourek (Civic Democrat, ODS) — and that only because he had attempted to hide money from his former wife — would have been regarded as a madman.

The main players in the affair — both politicians and company officials — concerning the placement of hundreds of millions of crowns of public money in highly dubious investments with the non-transparent brokerage are still around and untouched by the police. No one has resigned and, it appears, nobody has really been subject to the sort of police probe that might have been expected.

That said, the affair in itself was not so complicated. Politicians basically dispatched public money where it should not have gone with Key Investments managers not returning the sums they should have. For such acts, albeit on a bigger scale, US financier Bernard Madoff, was given a 150-year prison sentence.

For such acts, albeit on a bigger scale, US financier Bernard Madoff, was given a 150 year prison sentence.

But the Czech equivalent of the Madoff scandal shows no signs of ending up the same way although the Key Investments web stretches all the way from West Bohemian mining company Sokolovská uhelná through a series of Prague district councils and onto Prague Castle, the seat of the Czech head of state Václav Klaus.

In this case, it is not possible to talk about the incompetence of the police or the regulator, the Czech National Bank (ČNB). No, there is clearly a desire to sweep everything under the carpet. Instead, the public is thrown former minister Kocourek as a token big fish wound in by the anti-corruption police.

Kocourek’s case however only has a peripheral significance as regards the core Key Investments scandal. The former minister would be facing a prison term even if he had money from the cleanest and most transparent bank in the world for trying to evade paying some of it to his former wife. But that fact is ignored by 99 percent of the public as their major sources of information, the top-selling tabloid Blesk and commercial television counterpart TV Nova, do not cover it.

Kocourek was clearly a fly in the ointment for some people because he did not pay proper attention to their needs.

Kocourek was clearly a fly in the ointment for some people because he did not pay proper attention to their needs. As a minister he, apparently, did not fit in with those seeking lucrative state contracts from which financiers could make large and quick killings from relatively risk-free state liquidity. For this reason, the punishment for him was relatively speedy.

The Key Investments archives are a powerful weapon, both for those with something to lose and something to gain. That is why any politicians who have had any trading relations with the dodgy brokerage over the past decade have something to fear. They have been given warnings that if they do not play ball, they will end up like Kocourek. The people were are referring to are in the highest echelons, those who pull the strings in Prague district councils, in ministries, and god knows where else.

What we are dealing with here is a hybrid of high political influence, wielding power over regulators, the justice system and police, but leaving the structures linked in the public mind with Key Investments in place to carry out their murky business deals so that the basic balance of power remains unchanged.  Everything is bound together through the financing of politicians and their parties.

It could be argued that the simplest way to do away with the individuals pulling the strings in this game on the Czech political chessboard and dismantle the system that has apparently been in place since 2000 is simply not to vote for them in the first place. The problem though is the identity of these individuals is far from clear. The public cannot identify them and that is the crux of the  problem. 

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A fish rots from the head

The first name that must be mentioned is Vaclav Klaus. Leadership starts at the top. Klaus has failed to show courage in fighting corruption. As a leader, he is a moral and political failure. It will be good when he is no longer pretending to be a Czech political leader.

Naming names

The article is all very well but  you don't in fact name any names so how can the public judge?

If you have the names you should publish them if not then the whole article is pointless.

Thats a bit unfair. Ceska

Thats a bit unfair. Ceska Pozice does not have the resources of say The Guardian or the New York Times, either to really dig - investigative journalism needs money as well as courage - or to protect itself against lawsuits. The point it has consistently made is that the very fact of Our money going into such a dodgy vehicle as Key Investments should be the subject of stringent enquiries, and nothing happens. the point of this article is to keep this scandal in the public eye, and I think CP is to be congratuled for doing so. (and i don't always agree with its commentaries, by the way)

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