Police crack down in solar power corruption case

The anti-corruption police squad has cracked down in a case involving the country’s third largest solar power plant, arresting several people in early morning raids on Tuesday. The gravity of the emerging corruption case is documented by the fact that among those detained are former interior minister Ivan Langer and a regional deputy police chief.

Ševětín solar power plant, photo: CTKŠevětín solar power plant, photo: CTK The operation code-named Vidkun, was launched at daybreak on Tuesday with raids and arrests in several parts of the country. As details of the operation filtered through to the media it emerged that this latest corruption case to explode on the Czech political scene revolves around the country’s third largest solar power plant Ševětín, in south Bohemia, which was put into operation in 2010 under a generous government renewable energy support scheme.

The plant which supplies energy to eight thousand households in south Bohemia, and is owned by the state-owned power utility ČEZ, has aroused suspicion of corruption in the past and had been under police scrutiny for some time. Two years ago the Energy Regulatory Office indicated that it had found irregularities in the license-granting-procedure regarding several solar plants, among them Ševětín. ČEZ confirmed that this led to a police investigation saying it had been asked to provide the relevant materials with regard to several solar companies it owned and had complied.

Last week the weekly Respekt predicted a police crack-down at Ševětín, indicating there were serious suspicions surrounding the plant, such as the fact that five years ago ČEZ purchased it for a far higher sum than was its market price. The weekly claims police are now investigating the transfer of a 100 million crowns sum that was allegedly paid to one of the guarantors of the solar plant supervising its completion. Part of the money allegedly ended up at a Prague lawyers’ office where the former interior minister Ivan Langer was employed until 2010.

Ivan Langer, photo: CTKIvan Langer, photo: CTK The police operation is under the supervision of the Supreme State Attorney’s Office in Olomouc. Supreme State Attorney Ivo Ištvan told journalists the case pertained to abuse of office and bribery. According to the daily Právo the investigators are targeting not only former politicians but high placed members of the police force as well. Among those detained in Tuesday’s raids are the former interior minister Ivan Langer, and an Olomouc regional deputy police chief. One of the raids was also conducted at the Police Presidium and the police are questioning the head of the criminal police Jiří Pospíšek and the deputy head of the anti-corruption police Jiří Jach. The officers targeted in the investigation are suspected of having covered up dubious transactions in the solar power business.