One of the most prominent figures of the opposition Social Democratic party, MP and Central Bohemian governor David Rath has been charged with corruption. Mr. Rath was arrested on Monday night along with seven other people in a large-scale police operation that is believed to be linked to abuse of EU funds.
The arrest of governor David Rath exploded like a bombshell on the Czech political scene in the early hours of Tuesday. News of his detention first appeared on the internet news site Idnes and was quickly confirmed by his office spokeswoman Beryll Mascheková.
“I can confirm that at this moment the police are searching the governor’s office. Mr. Rath himself remains in detention and has issued a brief statement saying that he believes the police action to be politically motivated in the interest of politically destroying him and damaging the party ahead of the autumn elections. The governor says that in order to protect his party he is prepared to resign from all his posts and will discuss the matter with Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka as soon as he is released.”
Although the police remain tight-lipped about the case regional state attorney Lenka Bradáčová told the news site Idnes that Mr. Rath and the remaining seven people had been detained in connection with “harming the financial interests of the EU, giving and taking bribes and manipulating a public tender”. The news site quotes another anonymous source as saying the case is linked to EU subsidies for a hospital in central Bohemia. Leaders of the opposition Social Democratic Party expressed shock over the reports.Jan Hamáček a colleague MP for Central Bohemia had this to say.
“It is surprising and in a way shocking and obviously we expect the police to explain the reasons for detaining the governor and the other people in the case. On the other hand should all this prove to be true then we have always said that anyone accused of such things should immediately resign from all their posts.”
Under Czech legislation David Rath’s parliamentary immunity would have protected him from being arrested and charged but an article of the law provides a exception in cases where a culprit is caught red-handed. According to the internet news site Česká pozice.cz Mr. Rath was arrested in the street shortly after accepting a seven million crown bribe and had the money in his possession when the police detained him. The Speaker of the lower house Miroslava Němcová on Tuesday confirmed having received a late night call from the police and having given them preliminary approval to proceed with the case.
At its next session the lower house should take a vote on stripping David Rath of his immunity. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka says that the party will not try to shield Mr. Rath from criminal prosecution.
“On principle the Social Democrats in both houses of Parliament open the way for prosecution when such cases arise. Deciding on someone’s innocence or guilt is not in the competence of the lower or upper chamber. It will be left to the court to decide on whether Mr. Rath is innocent or guilty of the charges pressed against him.”
If David Rath is tried and found guilty of the said charges he could face up to 12 years in prison.