Prague police chief may resign over lobbyist’s arrest

Czech capital’s top policeman may be pushed to step down over mishandled arrest of Prague lobbyist at center of cronyism scandal

Brian Kenety 28.3.2012

Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrášek is under pressure to resign over what observers called grievous procedural errors in the arrest of the controversial lobbyist Roman Janoušek for drunk driving, causing grievous bodily harm, fleeing the scene of an accident — and then from the police.

Despite allegedly having attempted to avoid arrest by fleeing into a park on foot, Janoušek was not handcuffed; although drunk, he was questioned before being given time to sober up; and, contrary to police procedure, he was allowed to keep his mobile phone during his brief incarceration and make phone calls.

Police President Petr Lessy had called on Vondrášek to take personal responsibility for the numerous mistakes following the influential lobbyist’s arrest. The Independent Police Union (NOSP), the largest police union, and the Union of Security Services (UBS) of the Ministry of Interior have both given their support to Vondrášek. The NOSP said in a statement the Prague police chief was a “capable and honest policeman” who does not give in to political pressure.

For his part, Vondrášek has said that he wants to determine whether the mistakes were the fault of individual officers and their commanders in handling the incident or a systemic error before considering stepping down. He said he is awaiting a conclusion by the General Inspection of Security Forces (GIBS).

“Believe me, it will not take long. I cannot imagine that it would take just a few days, but neither will do I think it will take months,” he said as cited by Czech public television. Vondrášek said if it were found to be a systemic failure he would resign his post; his ultimate boss Lessy has said he suspects that was the case.

Transcripts released last week by the daily Mladá fronta dnes of the wiretaps conducted by the Czech domestic intelligence agency BIS in 2007 indicate that former Prague mayor Pavel Bém (Civic Democrats, ODS) and the lobbyist Janoušek — known as the “Prague ODS godfather” for his influence at City Hall — colluded on key decisions involving the allocation of Prague public funds, public tenders, and municipal property during Bém’s time in office.