Prague council corruption case rocks Czech political scene

Prague council corruption case rocks Czech political scene
Deputy premier and STAN leader Vit Rakusan (left) with deputy premier Ivan Bartos of the Pirate party. / Dominik Kučera
By bne IntelliNews June 22, 2022

The Prague city council corruption case linked to the ruling STAN party that erupted last week has escalated to the national level, forcing the resignation of a minister and the dismissal of the head of a state-owned company.

Education Minister Petr Gazdik (STAN), Deputy Mayor of Prague 9 Marek Dolezal (TOP09) and Czech Post CEO Roman Knap are among people who have resigned or were dismissed in connection with the huge kickbacks case at the Prague Transportation Company (DPP). 

Opposition leaders are demanding the resignation of Vit Rakusan – deputy premier, interior minister and head of the STAN party –  and that Prime Minister Petr Fiala dismiss the centre-right party from the coalition government. The scandal has also given a fillip to former premier Andrej Babis – himself beset with scandals – who is set to stand for president later this year, but as yet does not threaten the collapse of the government.

Gazdík has resigned as education minister and deputy chair of the STAN party. He is reported to have had several meetings with the lobbyist involved in the case, Prague businessman Michal Redl, who in the past had close links to Radovan Krejcir, a gangster who is now serving a prison term in South Africa. Gazdik said he was innocent, however, he decided to resign as he did not want to damage his party or the ruling coalition by remaining in his post.

MEP Stanislav Polcak (STAN) has suspended his membership in the party (STAN) because of his former links to Redl. He rejects being involved in the case but he also did not want to hurt the party through his former contacts. 

As reported by Czech daily Denik N, Dolezal, who served as a member of the oversight board of the DPP had been called on by the leadership of TOP09, another party in the ruling coalition, to immediately resign his membership of the party. His name has been included in the police investigation in the case. 

Jiri Fremr, advisor to MEP Jiri Pospisil (both TOP09), resigned from party membership as he has also been mentioned in police files as having introduced former City Hall councillor Petr Hlubucek and Redl, to each other. Pospisil had been asked by TOP09 leadership to immediately end cooperation with Fremr.

Czech Post CEO Roman Knap has been dismissed by  Rakusan,  due to the fact that Knap met with Redl. 

As bne Intellinews reported, the Czech National Centre against Organised Crime has charged 11 people over DPP, including Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubucek of the STAN party and Redl. The STAN  party has started returning financial donations from people charged in the case.