Czech police detain officials over alleged EU funds fraud

The Czech police have detained several officials working in the Northwest Regional Operational Programme (ROP) office that distributes EU subsidies; including a section and department head, who will likely be charged with abuse of office, local media reported Tuesday.

Czech public television reported that former ROP head Petr Kušnierz, who was brought corruption charges at the end of March, was among those detained. A police spokesman said the investigation centers on four projects; a raid of the regional ROP office was carried out in June in this regard.

“A total of four people have been detained, one woman and three men,” deputy regional state attorney Lenka Bradáčová told the Czech news agency ČTK, which said ROP section head Irena Kotlánová, who testified in the Kušnierz case, is among those facing charges.

Kušnierz and three others are alleged to have sought a total of Kč 2.8 million to smooth over the settlement of applicants for EU subsidies. A verdict in that case is due to be handed down on July 12.

The Northwest ROP, managed by and operating in the Ústí nad Labem and Karlovy Vary regions, had been earmarked a total of Kč 19 billion crowns of the EU funds. Contracts for projects worth Kč 16 billion have already been signed, according to ČTK.

The drawing of EU finances was halted this year in after several cases of suspected abuse of EU funds connected with the regional offices surfaced. As Czech Position reported in May, former regional official Leo Steiner (Christian Democrats, KDU-ČSL), has spoken out against alleged corruption in the distribution of EU funds and is cooperating with the police in that regard.