Prosecutor calls for 5-7 year prison sentence for ex-MP

Hearings concluded in trial of ex-Czech MP Petr Wolf and wife accused of embezzling Kč 11 million worth of state grants 

In the dock: former MP Petr Wolf foto: © ČTKČeská pozice

In the dock: former MP Petr Wolf

A Czech state prosecutor says the trial of Ex-Social Democrat (ČSSD) MP Petr Wolf and his wife, Hana, has shown beyond doubt that he is guilty of embezzling Kč 11 million of grant money from the Ministry of Environment, and is demanding a prison sentence of five to seven years. If found guilty, Wolf will be the first former Czech MP to be imprisoned for corruption.

The prosecution asserts that between 2004 and 2007 Wolf’s Ostrava-registered firm UT 2000 embezzled over Kč 11 million of grant money provided for two environmental support programs. According to the findings of the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ), among other scams, Wolf’s firm charged millions for an expert study that was freely available online. He also submitted invoices for travelling 130,000 kilometers for business meetings; the NKÚ concluded that on a number of occasions he would have had to be in two places at the same time in order to cover the distance he claimed expenses for.

In his final statement to the Ostrava Regional Court, which lasted around an hour, state prosecutor Dušan Táborský said that during court hearings sufficient evidence had emerged to prove Wolf’s guilt. “The whole time they [the defense] attempted to cover up the consequences of their criminal acts, they didn’t show any humility and didn’t attempt to rectify the consequences of their crime,” the server novinky.cz cited Táborský as saying.In addition to the prison sentence, the prosecution called for Wolf to be fined Kč 5 million.

The police’s anti-corruption and financial crimes unit officially launched its investigation into Wolf in September 2008, and charged him in November the following year after the lower house of parliament voted to lift his immunity from prosecution. From the outset Wolf has claimed the case against him was politically motivated.

From the outset Wolf has claimed the case against him was politically motivated. In June 2008 he quit the center-left Social Democrats (ČSSD), claiming the party’s then-leader, Jiří Paroubek, had threatened to publish information about irregularities in his company’s use of grant money — if he didn’t vote for the party’s presidential candidate, Jan Švejnar.

After he left the ČSSD, Wolf voted on a number of occasions with the center-right Civic Democrats (ODS). In March 2009, it emerged that then prime minister, Mirek Topolánek (ODS), had asked his close associate, the scandal-ridden lobbyist Marek Dalík, to see to it that state-owned Czech Television (ČT) didn’t broadcast a report about Wolf’s alleged corrupt practices.

“I asked Marek Dalík to help out deputy Wolf with the witch hunt he’s facing,” Topolánek admitted after it emerged that Dalík had approached the author of the reportage, Dalibor Bártek.

“It’s never happened to me before that someone has approached me not to film a certain reportage and was speaking on behalf of a high-placed politician,” Bártek said about the incident. ‘I unequivocally deny that I submitted false, unfounded facts and figures, or didn’t adhere to the rules of a public tender.’

Dalík’s attempted to block the reportage was a key reason the opposition at the time, the ČSSD, cited for calling a vote of no confidence in Topolánek’s government. The motion was passed on March 24, 2009, bringing down the government in the middle of the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the European Union.

At Mondays’ hearing, Wolf again refuted the allegations against him. “I unequivocally deny that I submitted false, unfounded facts and figures, or didn’t adhere to the rules of a public tender,” Wolf told the court.

At the time of publication, no date had been set for the delivery of the verdict in the trial.