Anti-corruption police to investige PM, interior minister over SFŽP affair

Nečas and John to be questioned over MoE, SFŽP corruption allegations; ex-head prosecutor says investigation ‘too narrow’

Pevný charakter Pavel Drobil (vlevo) a premiér Petr Nečas, který dá korupci na frak. Sejdou se znovu ve vládě? foto: © ČTKČeská pozice

Pevný charakter Pavel Drobil (vlevo) a premiér Petr Nečas, který dá korupci na frak. Sejdou se znovu ve vládě?

The allegations of corruption in the State Environmental Fund (SFŽP) have already tarnished the public reputation of Prime Minister Petr Neč?s and his center-right Civic Democrats (ODS), who in the parliamentary election campaign named the fight against corruption a top priority. Now Neč?s and Interior Minister Radek John (Public Affairs, VV) are under investigation for collusion with, or suppression of information relating to, alleged corruption in the SFŽP.

“For the time being, we have passed it [allegations of collusion] for investigation, but no criminal proceedings have been initiated yet,” Šárka Pokorná, director of prosecutions for Prague 1  announced Monday.        

A criminal investigation into SFŽP dealings was launched after the fund’s former chief, Libor Michálek, filed a report with the police  Dec. 13. According to the news portal Novinky.cz, John has already been questioned by police, while Nečas will be called in for questioning within days.

Four days later, on Dec. 17, a criminal complaint against PM Nečas, former Environment Minister Pavel Drobil, and Chief of the Government Administration Lubomír Poul was lodged by Philip Janýr, an Austrian citizen of Czech origin.

Janýr is said to be close to former chairman of the center-left Social Democrats (ČSSD) — the main opposition party. In his complaint to the police, Janýr alleges that Nečas, Poul and Drobil should face criminal charges for abuse of power and failure to report a criminal offense (corruption).

Nečas’ spokesman Jan Osúch said on Monday that the prime minister considers the prosecutors’ order for anti-corruption police to investigate Janýr’s complaint to be “logical,” Novinky.cz reported. “The prime minister has taken the information into account and will wait for the outcome of the investigation,” Osúch said. Minister John has confirmed that he has already been questioned by ant-corruption police.   

Investigation ‘too narrow’

On Jan. 1, Renata Vesecká, the former director of public prosecutions of the Czech Republic who left the post the previous day after serving a five-year term, said that her former colleagues have, so far, failed to investigate the possibility of certain potential crimes in the SFŽP investigation — including abuse of power by public servants.

On Monday, the chief prosecutor for Prague, Jana Hercegová, reacted by saying that Vesecká, even if she were still director of public prosecutions, would not have the right to express her opinion or make suggestions about the course of an investigation. This, Hercegová said, is solely within the jurisdiction of the public prosecutor’s supervisory body, and such public comments could influence the course of an open investigation.