New political scandal as police find bugging device in MP's car

12-11-2003

A new political scandal appears to be brewing this week, after Social Democrat MP Josef Hojdar announced that police had discovered a bugging device in his car. The MP has been saying for some time that the intelligence services are bugging him, an accusation they categorically deny. So who's behind it?

Josef Hojdar, photo: CTKJosef Hojdar, photo: CTK This is not the first time Josef Hojdar has said someone is watching him. The Social Democrat MP claimed in September that he was being bugged and followed by the Czech counter-intelligence service, or BIS. Mr Hojdar made the claims after leaving the Social Democrats' deputies group, an act which threatened the government's wafer-thin majority in parliament. The MP said back then that licence plates of two cars tailing him belonged to the BIS. But the service strenuously denied allegations it was following him. Reports in the media later claimed that the cars did indeed belong to the BIS, but that they were actually following someone else - business associates of Mr Hojdar. There the story ended, or so it seemed.

Now the MP is at the centre of a new scandal. On Tuesday he stunned party colleagues by announcing that police had found a listening device in his car.

Mr Hojdar said the device, which was attached to his hands-free mobile phone equipment, was still working when police removed it. He said he'd become suspicious after something began interfering with radio reception. Police say the device was installed by professionals, and are now examining it more closely for more clues.

So who is listening in to the MP's conversations? Once again the BIS has issued strenuous denials. But as commentator Vaclav Zak explains, it's not just the country's intelligence services who might be interested in Mr Hojdar's private conversations.

"Mr Hojdar is in a very sensitive position as a member of parliament, but especially as a member of the board of the so-called Consolidation Agency which decides about bad loans worth many billions of crowns. He's also involved in the privatisation of coal mines, again for many billions of crowns. So of course it could be the secret police, but it's quite probable that it could be a private agency looking for some private information. 'Professional' means not only the secret police but also professional security agencies. There are many of them in this country, and they've got former members of the secret police working for them."

The prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, has called for a full investigation into the Hojdar bugging affair, ordering the police and those ministries with jurisdiction over the counter-intelligence services to get to the bottom of what he described as "this vile attack". If past cases are anything to go by, it's likely to be some time before they do.

12-11-2003