Czech public prosecutors have taken the highly unusual step of taking the police anticorruption unit off a high-profile corruption investigation. The prosecution service says the step has been taken to ensure the integrity of the investigation, but the shadow interior minister suspects foul play.
The daily Právo broke the news Tuesday about an investigation into an alleged bribe amounting to millions of crowns paid by Penta Investments boss Marek Dospiva to Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), to issue licenses to Czech odds betting firms to offer their services on line. The prosecution service and interior minister say the media report was the reason behind the transfer of the investigation.
“The order was given so as everything is conducted in accordance with the criminal code, which at this stage [of the investigation] specifies the principal of nondisclosure,” Štěpánka Zenklová, a spokeswoman for the public prosecution service in Prague, told the server ihned.cz. Detectives in the Prague Police Administration have little experience in investigating cases of large-scale corruption.
The transfer of the case is especially unusual in so far as it was transferred to detectives in the Prague Police Administration who have little experience in investigating cases of large-scale corruption, and which in the structural organization of the police is a lower unit.
When investigations are transferred, they are typically usually passed to a different team within the same police unit. Shadow interior minister Jeroným Tejc (Social Democrats, ČSSD), says the intervention by the prosecution service will either impede or torpedo the investigation.
“I don’t remember that investigators have ever been taken off a case because of information leaked to the media. This suggests that the move was calculated. I don’t know who else should investigate such a serious allegation of a finance minister and deputy prime minister accepting a bribe other than this [anticorruption] unit,” Tejc said, as cited by ihned.cz.
“These leaks can negatively affect on-going criminal proceedings and complicate the work of the people working on cases through media pressure. At the same time it leads to ‘media criminalization’ of persons who may never be charged or found guilty,” Interior Minister Jan Kubice (non-aligned) said on Tuesday after publication of Právo’s report on the investigation.
See relates article: Police investigating charge Penta boss bribed Czech Fin Min to favor Fortuna