BIS reports mafia has fingers in Czech judicial system

Organized crime has an increasing number of contacts amongst the judiciary in this country - that's according to a new report released by the Czech counter-intelligence service BIS this week. Given its severity the 2005 annual BIS report has not gone unnoticed, though its content leaves some specifics unanswered.

On Tuesday, the Czech counter-intelligence service, BIS, released its annual report for 2005. Included are some serious accusations. For example, the report states that influential businessmen have crossed ethical lines in privatization schemes, and that the Czech Republic is dealing with a high number of spies posing as diplomats—the Russian Federation and North Korea are named as particularly problematic in this regard. According to BIS estimates, of the 60 Russians posted as diplomats in the Czech Republic, half may be in the service of Russian intelligence.

However, for the national scene, arguably the most serious aspect of the report states that organized crime in the Czech Republic is paying off people working in the judiciary, as well as the police and the state administration. According to the report, members of the mafia operating in the Czech Republic also use scare tactics against civil servants, and they try to manipulate the outcome of parliamentary negotiations regarding new laws.

Although the report does not disclose names of suspected corrupt judges, it does state that district courts are most susceptible to corruption. For example, judges may accept payment in exchange for lightening prison conditions for those found guilty of crimes. The justice minister, Jiri Pospisil, has reacted by saying that the accusations are very serious, and that BIS chief Jiri Lang should put forth concrete information regarding corrupt judges. Mr. Pospisil has assured the press that if the Justice Ministry was to learn the names of suspected corrupt judges, they would face appropriate criminal charges.

Jaromir JirsaJaromir Jirsa The president of the judges' union, Jaromir Jirsa, has also reacted strongly to the BIS report. Mr. Jirsa points out that he's been hearing about judicial corruption in the Czech Republic for the past 15 years, but that with one exception, no action has ever been taken. Mr. Jirsa too wants BIS to present concrete proof of its suspicions, so that there is not a black cloud hanging over all judges.

Where the growing influence of mafia organizations on the police and state administration is concerned, the BIS report does cite two particularly problematic regions: the Moravian-Silesian highlands, and the region of Zlin in southeast Moravia. The BIS concludes that mafia groups from the Caucasus are making inroads in these parts of the country, with Armenian organized crime being particularly effective in paying-off accomplices within the police and state structures.

As for the bad light thrown on the judiciary of the Czech Republic, for the time being the spokesman for BIS, Jan Subrt, says that further details will not be released. Specifics of the BIS report remain confidential, and for so long as they do, there are many unanswered questions.