Czech anti-corruption raids shake government

Operation resulted in seizure of almost €6m and dozens of kilograms of gold

Czech Republic’s prime minister Petr Necas who said  he had no intention of resigning from his post after a series of police raids on government offices. Photograph: Petr Josek/Reuters

Czech Republic’s prime minister Petr Necas who said he had no intention of resigning from his post after a series of police raids on government offices. Photograph: Petr Josek/Reuters

 


The Czech government is reeling after several prominent political and intelligence figures were arrested in a stunning anti-corruption sweep.

Some 400 police officers raided government headquarters, the defence ministry, a bank and private homes around Prague and elsewhere in the country, in an operation that also resulted in the seizure of almost €6 million in cash and dozens of kilograms of gold.

The raids, which are unprecedented in the scandal-ridden Czech Republic, have put huge pressure on Czech prime minister Petr Necas to resign, due to the alleged involvement at the heart of the affair of Jana Nagyova, who runs his office and has worked with him since at least 2006.

Prosecutor Ivo Istvan said Ms Nagyova was accused of abuse of office for allegedly arranging illegal surveillance of several people, including Mr Necas’s wife.

The premier announced earlier this week that they were getting divorced, and Czech media have long speculated about the nature of his relationship with Ms Nagyova.

The current and former chiefs of Czech military intelligence have also been arrested on abuse of power charges in connection with the alleged surveillance operations.

Two former parliamentary deputies from Mr Necas’s centre-right Civic Democrats (ODS) have been charged with corruption for allegedly taking senior posts at state firms in exchange for resigning their seats, which helped the government push through tax proposals that they opposed.

The opposition Social Democrats demanded Mr Necas’s immediate resignation and snap elections.

“Never before have there been arrests at the government offices, in the closest circles of the prime minister,” opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka told parliament, insisting the country could not be led by someone “whose closest allies are suspected of ties to mafia”.

“If the prime minister refuses to take personal responsibility for the way this government has been engulfed by this huge scandal, if he refuses to resign, this will obviously only strengthen the dark streams of extremism and populism in our country,” Mr Sobotka added.


Crisis talks
The prime minister was due to meet leftist president Milos Zeman for crisis talks last night, but he told parliament he saw no reason to leave the post he assumed in 2010.

“Right now I don’t have information proving criminal acts committed by my co-workers . . . I personally am convinced I haven’t done anything dishonest, nor have my co-workers or Ms Nagyova. Therefore I have no reason to consider resignation,” Mr Necas said.

He described as “standard political practice” the offer of top jobs in state firms to the ODS deputies who resigned from parliament, and suggested that the alleged illegal surveillance operations could have taken place due to a misunderstanding over instructions for his own security.

“It is the biggest case of that kind,” said Radim Bures of Transparency International in Prague. “It’s organised crime par-excellence.”