Image-crazed cops criminalising politics
Former Czech PM Petr Nečas discusses the police corruption case against him – and says why he thinks organised crime police chief Robert Šlachta and state attorney Ivo Ištvan must go.
Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas could soon find himself facing fresh charges in a corruption case relating to his wife Petra Nečasová (formerly Nagyová). Despite, this Nečas recently told Euro: “I am convinced that an independent court will acquit all of the accused.” But Nečas has little belief he will ever convince the Czech public of his innocence – they, he believes, are far too spellbound by media sensationalism.
Given events so far in the ‘Nagygate’ affair and the fall of your government, would you be willing to speculate on what lies next?
Looking at everything that has occurred since 12 June of last year, anything is possible. We have become a nation of unlimited opportunities.
Following the latest round of criminal charges, this time for endangering the secrecy of classified information, we are still lacking a figure charged with abuse of public office. Surely detectives in this case have to find such a figure. The suspects obtained the classified information from someone. One logical assumption in this would be that as a recipient of BIS Czech intelligence, you were the source…
That is a question for the detectives of the Organised Crime Police Unit (ÚOOZ). They proceeded in a very crafty manner. We are not allowed to talk about it under threat of a five million crown penalty. And this also pertains to interrogations about these allegedly covered-up events. And so the police and public officials can leak information to the press, but if we talk we face huge fines.
You spent many years handling classified information, including as deputy minister of defence and during your leadership of the parliamentary defence and security committee. How did you handle the intelligence summaries and annual BIS reports that came your way?
I cannot discuss that, even though I would like to. But I consider these things to be the same as the affairs surrounding alleged surveillance and information peddling – manufactured, artificial affairs.
„Given everything that has occurred since 12 June of last year, anything is possible. We have become a nation of unlimited opportunities“
Some time before the ‘Nagygate’ affair erupted, there were whispers that for reasons of ineffectiveness in his post, the head of the ÚOOZ, Robert Šlachta, was due to be replaced? What were the arguments in favour of his dismissal?
As the head of the government, I had been unhappy for a long time with the work of the head of the Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit Tomáš Martinec as well as with Robert Šlachta. To me, they were basically both the same. They made the creation of an invincible media image their priority. Which is best done by going after politicians and criminalising their
steps and decisions. I made my fundamental unhappiness with this situation known to the police president, interior minister, minister of justice and also the attorney general. A kind of proverbial last straw for me was the prosecution of the former Minister of Health Tomáš Julínek for a proposal to farm out air ambulance services to private companies. This, despite the fact that the proposal was approved by the government. We can say the same of the criminalisation of former Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová over the CASA affair. Another example is the criminalisation of the Prague City Hall of Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda over Opencard. This is a perfect example of a political decision which was subsequently scandalously criminalised.
Does it not seem unusual to you that the ÚOOZ, which is supposed to primarily focus on organised crime, is suddenly investigating alleged cases of corruption?
Among other reasons, my dissatisfaction with Robert Šlachta came about with the ÚOOZ’s work in the methanol affair of summer 2012. The more I probed behind the scenes with regards to the trade in doctored spirits, the more I was alarmed. The crimes also represented mass tax evasion. Rather than blowing trumpets about investigative efficiency, the perpetrators trading in black market spirits should have been found far earlier. Unfortunately, to that end, the ÚOOZ cannot share major
credit. The lion’s share belongs to regional investigators in Ostrava and Zlín. What units along the lines of the ÚOOZ have demonstrated in terms of the black market in alcohol during the past year – if you’ll permit me a comparison – is like an elephant enduring a flea bite. That is roughly the impact they had on the black market trade in alcohol. And by the way, do you know about the kind of successes they have had with combating human trafficking over the last two or three years? When was the last major operation against organised gangs of traffickers? Here you can clearly see that persecuting politicians has become the main occupation of such police units. Basically, bag a politician and the higher up they are, the more of a media star you will become.
Let us return to Robert Šlachta. The signals regarding an “alcohol mafia” really were in evidence for some time. Why was nothing done? Surely, the BIS had this information at its fingertips too? Is this really a viable reason for dismissing Šlachta?
I have to say that the death of several dozen people [from methanol poisoning] was a truly painful episode. It affected me deeply. I was later seeking out information on the Czech alcohol market; about fuels; about VAT repayments – these are widespread organised groups that extend beyond our borders. Detectives should have taken a tougher approach on this. It was a serious failure on their part. So my question is: where is the ÚOOZ? It is too busy going after politicians.
So why was Šlachta not dismissed?
Because I ended in my post first. The same is true in the case of [Olomouc-based High State Attorney] Ivo Ištvan. He would be through the moment a law on public prosecutors was passed. This would lead to the post of Olomouc Public Prosecutor being abolished.
„I am not an adherent of the conspiratorial Ištvan-Šlachta-esque view of the world. They see criminal shenanigans and conspiracies everywhere.“
How do you explain the fact that you only learned of several major police operations when arrests started being carried out?
Firstly, I would like to know why – when detectives and prosecutors were convinced that the Military Intelligence service (VZ) was being abused – they permitted such criminality to continue? Why did they not alert the chair of the [parliamentary] intelligence committee, the chair of the National Security Council – that being the Prime Minister – that such affairs were occurring? In all seriousness, let me declare that around this time, the VZ was conducting operations in which the lives and safety of Czech citizens were on the line. This creates the impression that the affair was strung together ex post facto. I am convinced that VZ service members, as well as others, acted in accordance with the law. There was no serious criminal deed. Why did the police and public prosecutors act only after more than six months had passed if the case was so clear-cut?
Everything is said to have centred around your divorce. Was your now ex-wife Radka really in danger?
I don’t want to discuss that until the matter goes before an independent court. But what is true is that my divorce was preceded by a separation. We had lived apart for some time before everything became public and before a divorce filing was made.
This means before the VZ operations were undertaken?
Right now, I can only say that whoever was conducting surveillance on us, knew full well we were separated.
===== And in the affair surrounding surveillance of your ex-wife, there is a fundamental question of whether you spoke to the two generals in question about the VZ’s activities, or whether that was only done by your [then mistress, now wife] Jana
These kinds of questions will be presented to an independent court, and I am convinced that the heads of the VZ and other
related individuals all acted according to the law – and that this whole case is just as manufactured as the alleged bribery case [relating to former Civic Democrat MPs Petr Tluchoř, Ivan Fuksa and Marek Šnajdr] known as “trafika”.
Did either the Secret Service or BIS give indications that strange goings-on were afoot?
I received no warnings. Although, in such an environment, you do pick up hints all the time. For example, we learned that information had come to light in Prague that someone from the Secret Service was leaking information relating to visitors to Kramářova Villa [the official residence of the Czech Prime Minister –Ed.]
Did this lead to any consequences for members of the Secret Services?
As soon as I learned of this, yes. Changes were made in terms of places of work and shifts. But I don’t want to go into that too much. I did not concern myself with such details. But evidently, it was a case of individual failures. I have no reason not to cherish and respect the work of good police members and the vast majority of the members of the Secret Service.
One theory is that your case may have only been a by-product. There is speculation that it could have been related to, for example, the Temeliín expansion or the CASA military cargo plane affair. There is talk that the ÚOOZ is working closely with American authorities. Have you ever encountered any hints that your case might be connected to some such other factors?
I am not an adherent of the conspiratorial Ištvan-Šlachtaesque view of the world. They see criminal shenanigans and conspiracies everywhere. Their thinking is that if, asides from the names of family and friends, your telephone book contains a list of 200 assorted contacts, then you are a member of some kind of influencepeddling network.
So you don’t have any signals relating to some kind of foreign influences?
No, I do not. The fact that we knew that the Temelín [expansion tender] case was about more than just economic matters, that it was also about political, and even geopolitical ones [pertaining to Russian influence –Ed.], and that respective governments were fully standing behind the bids, was never in any doubt. But I really am not the one spreading such theories anyway.