President Miloš Zeman has indicated that the prime minster should resign over a graft scandal involving his chief-of- staff. Asked by media whether the center-right cabinet should continue in office, Mr. Zeman said that the charges against the prime minister’s close aide Jana Nagyová were “very serious” and appeared to be well founded. After being briefed on the case by the police president and Olomouc state attorney, I have come to the conclusion that the charges of abuse of office and corruption are based on sufficient evidence, the president said. The prime minister has come under increasing pressure to quit in the wake of an extensive anti-graft sweep in several government institutions. Seven people have been charged in connection with the affairs.
Jana Nagyová the prime minister’s chief-of-staff and by all accounts a central figure in the ongoing corruption scandal, has been refused bail. Nagyová is accused of abuse of office and corruption and could face up to five years in prison. She will remain in custody in Ostrava. Her lawyer has appealed the verdict. The regional court in Ostrava likewise refused bail to former agriculture minister Ivan Fuksa, and his former deputy Roman Boček, former Civic Democrat MP Petr Tluchoř and the former head of military intelligence, General Ondřej Palenik.
The head of the country’s military intelligence, General Milan Kovanda, reportedly thought he was acting in the interests of the Czech Republic when he took orders from the prime minister’s chief-of-staff to spy on three people. The general’s lawyer told journalists on Saturday that General Kovanda had merely acted as a solider used to taking orders and not questioning them. Police investigators revealed that Jana Nagyová, who is romantically linked to the prime minister, had the three persons followed for her own private reasons. The general was released on a court order.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Saturday apologized to the three persons who were spied on, on the orders of his chief-of-staff, including his wife Radka. The prime minister said he was unaware that such orders had been given and would personally never have allowed the country’s intelligence services to be abused in this manner. He expressed deep regret over the incident.
The ruling coalition party TOP 09, which on Friday expressed support for the prime minister on the grounds that the police had failed to provide sufficient evidence in the case, has called an emergency meeting of its party leadership for Saturday evening. The move came following growing discontent with the party’s position on the matter and criticism of the prime minister. Party deputy-chair Miroslav Kalousek, said the situation was grave. There have been widespread reports that TOP 09 is preparing to hold talks on early elections with the opposition Social Democrats.
The opposition Social Democrats have urged the prime minister to act responsibly and to resign in the face of the growing scandal. Party deputy chair Michal Hašek said that every additional hour of procrastination was damaging the country’s reputation and undermining the country’s democracy. In connection with Tuesday’s no-confidence vote, Mr. Hašek said he hoped that at least some members of the ruling coalition would put the best interests of the state ahead of their own narrow party interests. The opposition needs 101 votes to bring down the government. The motion to dissolve Parliament and open the way for early elections would have to be supported by 120 deputies.
Government officials, cultural figures and WWII veterans gathered at the Lidice memorial on Saturday for a commemorative ceremony marking the destruction of the village by the Nazis in 1942 in revenge for the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich. All the men in Lidice were shot, women transported to concentration camps, children forcibly placed in German families for re-education and the village itself was razed to the ground. Speaking at the ceremony, President Miloš Zeman warned against what he called creeping neo-Nazism and false nationalism, saying society must remain vigilant against the danger of history repeating itself.
Chairman of the main opposition party, Bohuslav Sobotka, met with President Miloš Zeman on Friday afternoon to discuss his plans to bring about early parliamentary elections and the dissolution of the current government due to a large-scale corruption scandal involving high-ranking officials from the Office of the Government and the ruling Civic Democratic party. Later the in the day, the speaker of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová, received a request from the Social Democratic party for a vote of no confidence to take place next week. After speaking with the opposition leader, the president met with Prime Minister Nečas, who did not reveal any details about the meeting to the press.
High State Attorney Ivo Ištvan on Friday confirmed that seven people have
been charged in connection with the anti-graft operation that began on
Wednesday evening. Among
them are Jana Nagyová, the prime minister’s chief of staff who has been
charged with abuse of office, the present and former heads of the
military intelligence and two former Civic Democrat MPs charged with
bribery and money laundering. It was also confirmed that Jana Nagyová is
involved in the web of corruption
having commissioned the country’s military intelligence to spy on three
persons, including the prime minister’s wife. She is also linked to the
corruption charges leveled against the two former MPs. According to the
news server iDnes.cz, the police is also looking into the prime minister
because he allegedly offered the three "rebel" Civic Democratic
MPs, two of who have already been charged, attractive positions in
government-run institutions in exchange for their help in passing the
government's reform package last fall.
The seven people who have been charged were brought from Prague to the courthouse detention in Ostrava on Friday evening, where their bail hearings will be held.
The head of the police’s organized crime unit Robert Šlachta said that the extensive police operation against graft involved hundreds of officers and had been going on for over a year and a half. He said that in addition to raids on government offices the police had raided 31 private homes and offices confiscating 120 to 150 million crowns in cash, sensitive documents and many kilograms of gold. The anti-graft operation involved politicians, government officials and lobbyists and the charges involve corruption, bribery, money-laundering and abuse of office.
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