Newly-elected MP says he was offered bribe - apparently to break parliamentary deadlock

07-06-2006

Just days after the Czech election ended in stalemate, allegations of scandal have already surfaced: a claim that a bribe was secretly offered to break the parliamentary deadlock. On Tuesday the newly-elected Social Democrat MP Pavel Ploc - a former Olympic medallist - told the media that he had been approached by two men and offered 5 million crowns (the equivalent of 226,000 US dollars) to switch sides. The matter is now under investigation and charges have already been filed.

Pavel Ploc and Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTKPavel Ploc and Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK Just days after the election, a new scandal: newly-elected MP Pavel Ploc saying that he was offered a bribe to change allegiance from the Social Democrats to the Greens. The former Olympic ski jumper, who won silver in Calgary in 1988, says that he was visited by two men at his home. One of them, he said, was a minor acquaintance from the past: together the visitors offered him five million crowns. Following the incident Mr Ploc informed the Social Democrat leadership, which then contacted the police. MP Pavel Ploc:

"For me it was a big blow: I haven't even sat in parliament yet. As a sportsman I've always backed the principle of 'fair play' and now something like this has already come up."

Mirek Topolanek and Martin Bursik, photo: CTKMirek Topolanek and Martin Bursik, photo: CTK The problem so far is that there is no real proof against the suspects and investigators say that the leak to the media has made their job very difficult. That doesn't mean that some aren't already laying the blame: the Social Democrats have already pointed the finger at the right-of-centre Civic Democrats. But Mirek Topolanek, whose party won the election, has rejected any connection, and his party has called the claim a "provocation". Martin Bursik, the leader of the Greens, likewise rejected any involvement by his party. On Tuesday here's what he told Czech TV:

"I don't know Mr Ploc and I never met him - I never ski jumped. But, I can recommend that if he or anyone else is interested in joining the Greens they can do so for free."

Without concrete evidence - such as a wiretap for instance - proving the bribe allegation may be impossible. Two years ago Zdenek Korisktka - an MP for the Freedom Union - made a similar claim. But, without real evidence that case was eventually shelved. This one - in many ways similar - could end up the same.

07-06-2006