The governor of the South Bohemia Region, Jiří Zimola of the Social Democrats, has officially resigned from his post. Mr. Zimola announced his move earlier this month in the wake of the collapse of a regional government coalition comprised of the Social Democrats and two other parties. His resignation was the condition for the Social Democrats to negotiate a new coalition. Zimola, who has been governor for nearly nine years, will be replaced in the post by his deputy Ivana Stráská. Zimola has been blemished by criticism over the earnings of top hospital managers and revelations about some of his property deals.
The Czech upper house, the Senate, has abolished a wide range of exemptions from what is seen as a key anti-corruption proposal. Many backers of the proposal, which forces state and other companies to declare contracts they have signed, said the measure would be almost meaningless with the wide raft of exemptions proposed in the previous version agreed by the lower house. Senators on Wednesday voted that exemptions should only apply to the state brewery company, Budějovický Budvar, and some healthcare centres. That version, which also calls on agreements of the parliament, president’s office, and Constitutional Court amongst others to be made public, will now return to the lower house.
The Supreme Court has ordered the release from prison of infamous Czech lobbyist and advisor to former prime minister Mirek Topolánek, Marek Dalík. Dalík has been serving a five year sentence, later reduced to four, for taking bribes. The reasons for the court ruling are to be given in writing. Dalík was investigated by police and later sentenced over a massive army contract for transporters from the Austrian company Steyr with the court originally accepting that he promised to influence the contract for payment of 18 million euros, around 500 million crowns. Dalík maintained he was not guilty.
The Czech Republic has made significant progress in tackling corruption and increasing transparency in party financing, according to a report by the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO). The report says that Prague has now fulfilled 9 of the 13 recommendations it was given by the council but regrets the lack of progress in implementing its recommendations concerning the criminalisation of corruption. These are to accelerate the process of signing and ratifying the Additional Protocol to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and to clarify that all public sector employees, in particular those exercising ancillary jobs, fall within the scope of the bribery and trading in influence provisions. GRECO has consistently monitored the situation in the Czech Republic and says the country has made significant progress in the field.
Thousands of euros in bribe money acquired by middlemen abusing the Czech visa system in Ukraine are going to Poland, Czech Television reported on Tuesday. According to Czech Television’s investigative reporters the money collected from Ukrainian workers seeking to get a work permit in the Czech Republic are taken to a person in Katowice who alone can enter names into the Czech consulate’s Visapoint system where the list of applicants has been blocked for months in advance. Czech Radio’s reporters also confirmed earlier that the issuing of visas for Ukrainian workers has turned into a booming business for agents and middlemen. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it is aware of the problem and is working to tackle it.
Former Civic Democrat senator Alexandr Novák has German citizenship but that will not prevent his extradition to the Czech Republic, a Czech Ministry of Justice spokesperson said on Tuesday. Mr. Novák was arrested in Frankfurt on an international arrest warrant over charges of abuse of European Union subsidies in connection with a regional programme. The ex-politician was previously sentenced to a four-year jail term for bribe-taking.
Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán has filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against the cancellation of a verdict in the corruption case of former Social Democrat governor of Central Bohemia David Rath. The Prague High Court cancelled the verdict on the grounds that it was based on the unlawful use of wiretappings. It returned the case to the Regional Court which will not be able to use the wiretapping recordings as evidence in new proceedings. The Regional Court sentenced Rath to 8.5 years in prison and the forfeiture of some 20 million crowns for corruption in July 2015. The verdict of the Prague High Court’s has also come under fire from the Prague State Attorney’s Office.
The Czech coalition government has just celebrated three years in power. And if there’s one feature that has perhaps set it aside from its predecessor is the lack of corruption scandals. There have been one or two spread far apart, but that’s about it. So a drop in the country’s ranking in anti-corruption and good government watchdog Transparency International’s corruption perception index was an unwelcome gift. We look at some of the reasons for the fall.