Current Affairs Police raid CzechInvest agency on suspicion of corruption
Anti-corruption police raided the offices of the CzechInvest state agency in Prague on Wednesday, confiscating documents, laptops and computers. Although the police have placed an information embargo on the case it has emerged that CzechInvest, set up by the Trade and Industry Ministry to promote Czech business interests, is suspected of manipulating a tender for prospecting industrial zones for foreign investors.
CzechInvest was brought to a standstill in the early hours of Wednesday as anti-corruption police searched the building from top to bottom confiscating documents, laptops and computers. According to information confirmed by the trade and industry ministry later in the day the agency is suspected of manipulating a tender on managing the real estate database that serves potential investors in searching for industrial zones in the Czech Republic. The agency allegedly failed to place the tender on its web page or on any other media outlets, quietly handing the 3.2 million crown contract to the firm of its choice Grafin, a private company whose ownership remains unclear. The tender was moreover, by all accounts, back-dated.
The manner of awarding the contract – which was later unexpectedly cancelled - was questioned not only by Transparency International but by the Trade and Industry Ministry which sent auditors to look into the case. Their efforts to look into the matter were interrupted by Wednesday’s police raid. Trade and Foreign Minister Martin Kuba told journalists on Wednesday he welcomed the police investigation and said heads would roll if the suspicions surrounding the case were confirmed.
“I want the matter thoroughly investigated and if it reveals any evidence of mismanagement or fraud, I will hold the general director Miroslav Krizek fully accountable. He would be sacked and I am sure he is fully aware of the fact.”
While the police remain tight-lipped on the case in view of the ongoing investigation Stanislav Beránek from Transparency International has revealed some of the agency’s own findings.
“When we investigated the case, we followed a chain of companies which finished in Panama-in an offshore company in Panama. And according to the Panama Trade Register this company was owned by a certain lawyer. There is suspicion that this company is personally connected with friends of Mr. Křížek, the director of Czech Invest.”
While CzechInvest’s general director has refused to comment on developments, the agency’s spokeswoman Veronika Forejtová on Thursday admitted that the police investigation did indeed concern the problematic tender. However, according to her, there was no case since the tender had in the meantime been cancelled.