A series of cables from the US embassy in Prague show ambassadors and top officials struggling to comprehend the size and scope of Czech corruption, according to dispatches leaked this week by the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks. Czech citizens were getting increasingly angry but did not seem prepared to kick out the tarnished politicians and parties, the sometimes prescient cables add.
Two days before the Czech lower house’s Mandate and Immunity Committee meets to discuss a request by police to lift the parliamentary immunity of Public Affairs (VV) de facto leader Vít Bárta, he has requested his fellow MPs vote to oblige the request so he can face bribery charges. Several sources say in recent weeks he had lobbied various factions to vote in favor of preserving his immunity.
The government has endorsed the composition and statutes of its new anti-corruption commission, to be headed by Karolína Peake (VV) and comprise seven ministers, including Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) — whom the VV party was calling upon to resign just months ago. A crucial test of Peake’s resolve to fight corruption will come in late August.
President Václav Klaus signed off the new law on public tenders on Tuesday according to which bidders in tenders issued by state organs and with a value above Kč 300 million must receive security clearance. Previously, persons and entities required security clearance for tenders valued above Kč 500 million.
Czech Police have charged Martin Knetig, a former advisor to ex-Environment Minister Pavel Drobil, for “indirect bribery” for allegedly seeking kickbacks for a secret Civic Democrats (ODS) slush fund and to his old boss. Police documents purport to show that in October 2010 Knetig tried to get a member of Komerční banka’s board of directors to sponsor the ODS in exchange for depositing Kč 20 bln of state funds.
After nearly half a year of foot-dragging, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda finally decided to launch an internal investigation as to how the councils of the Prague 6, 10 and 13 districts have been investing huge sums of public money through the dubious brokerage Key Investments. But a source from the leadership of an affected district says inspectors are clearly not interested in digging very deep.
Police want to charge Public Affairs (VV) de facto leader Vít Bárta with corruption for allegedly having bribed fellow party members. However, first his MP’s immunity must be lifted, and Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) is reportedly ready to support him. Ironically, VV says in its policy declaration it will strive to abolish MP’s immunity apart from prosecutions relating to parliamentary speeches.
In recent days police have been arresting police. The first case involved the members of the team of “hard hitters” within a special unit who caused a death when vying to outdo each other with heavy handed tactics, then came the arrest of officers suspected of working on the side for film crews shooting in Prague. And just a couple of days ago criminal investigators in Brno were arrested on suspicion of sweeping investigations, mostly into financial crimes, under the carpet.
Czech Police have given details of how current and former police officers are believed to have headed a terror and extortion racket in the country’s second city, Brno, that continued operating for 12 years. Three former police officers, one serving officer and two civilians, have been held in custody since members of the suspected gang were detained on Tuesday following an undercover investigation by the special ÚOOZ police squad, the Police Inspectorate, and Public Prosecutor’s Office in Olomouc.
A special police unit for combatting organized crime, the Czech Police Inspectorate, and Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office in Olomouc combined forces to pounce on a group of current and former police officers alleged to have blocked and swept under the carpet key details involving top corruption cases and other white-collar crime cases going back a decade.