Regular readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of the Czech investigative journalist Sabina SlonkovÃ¡ of the website AktualnÄ›.cz. She herself was the target of a murder plot a few years back by the then-assistant to Foreign Minister Jan Kavan over her reporting on a corruption affair involving the Å tÃÅ™Ãn castle.
Today’s article is significant for a number of reasons, but perhaps most important is that she has managed to tie together two of the most significant scandals of recent months in the Czech Republic – the corruption scandal over the Unipetrol privatization, where ZdenÄ›k DoleÅ¾el, the former chief of staff to two prime ministers (Gross and Paroubek) was recorded by a hidden camera asking for a CZK 5 million bribe. In fact, the way he put it, “five on the table in Czech [currency]” has now entered the language.
The second scandal involves the head of the police’s Organized Crime Unit and the subsequent wide-ranging wiretaps, in which a number of figures – including the opposition – were wiretapped.
But now SlonkovÃ¡ is beginning to tie the two stories together, and that could prove to be explosive. The translation below is my own.
Prague â€“ A special team of the police presidium has been investigating for more than four months suspicions that the murder of the head of the Organized Crime Unit, Jan Kubice, was being planned.
The information was gained by security units in the investigation of the activities of a group around ZdenÄ›k DoleÅ¾el, the former chief of staff of two Social Democrat prime ministers.
DoleÅ¾el was arrested on Tuesday night by police with the mayor of BudiÅ¡ov, Ladislav PÃ©Å¥a, and an official of the agriculture ministry, Miloslav Å˜ehulka, on suspicions of machinations with EU subsidies and blackmail. During several months of wiretaps of the figures in the case, it came out that a plan exists for Kubice’s liquidation.
Who are the accused?
AktuÃ¡lnÄ›.cz has found that the plan was hatched at a time when Kubice – just before parliamentary elections – announced in the parliament that politicians were trying to manipulate sensitive cases.
â€œInformation on the planned murder was available at the end of May and beginning of June. And that is from both police and the secret services. The police president then allowed a special team to be created that looked into the information under state prosecutorsâ€™ supervision. â€œNobody has been charged so far,â€ a source familiar with details of the investigation told AktuÃ¡lnÄ›.cz.
Police: Weâ€™re looking into it and canâ€™t say more
The police presidium has confirmed that it has taken up the investigation of murder. It refused to comment on details of the case. â€œWe are examining the case, but we cannot say anything else in public,” said Deputy Police President for Criminal Procedures FrantiÅ¡ek Snopek.
Jan Kubice himself was brief: â€œI will not say anything about that.â€
From the wiretaps and other evidence from the team, according to AktuÃ¡lnÄ›.cz information, it has come out that the plan to take out Kubice counted on several phases: First the policeman would be discredited in the media, then charges from the Interior Ministry were to follow over the content of his report for MPs; later he was to be taken out of service.
Then he was supposed to be killed, but to the outside it was supposed to look like a suicide, because he ‘couldn’t take the pressure of the circumstances.’â€
The police suspect that the first part â€“ scandalizing him â€“ has already begun. Some journalists in recent days received a 100-page document with the title ‘Business and property relations of the family of Lt. Jan Kubice.â€™ The daily Å Ãp reported on its contents on 3 October.
â€œThe file contains a number of suspicions that would Kubice should believably explain,” the daily wrote, while at the same time pointing out that the document was supposed to discredit Kubice.
Who is the author of the plan?
The police presidium team is now collecting evidence that should elucidate the role of individual members of DoleÅ¾el’s group. From their questioning, it has come out that the attack on Kubice was discussed in coded terms:
At the same time DoleÅ¾el and two other arrested men were questioned all day today. All are being investigated on suspicions that they wanted to wrongly gain more than CZK 30 million (USD $1.33 million) in EU subsidies earmarked for landmarks renovation.
In addition, they are suspected of blackmail over pressure on the architect who prepared a project for the reconstruction of a castle in BudiÅ¡ov and who later stopped â€œcooperatingâ€ with the group.
Former Local Development Minister Radko MartÃnek today announced that the architect informed him of the entire case in the spring. â€œThe architect visited me and shared with me certain suspicions. I called on him to inform the police and offered him cooperation and said I donâ€™t care who is involved,â€ MartÃnek said.
The architect was later in contact with a reporter from the TV Nova program ‘Na vlastnÃ oÄiâ€™ [Eyewitness], who then made recordings available from several meetings of DoleÅ¾el’s group.
Nova today broadcast shots from a meeting of DoleÅ¾el, Å˜ehulka and PÃ©ta, which were made by their reporter AleÅ¡ VÃ©br with a hidden camera. The TV station claims that it managed to gain the trust of this trio and managed to work its way into the transaction. In the Nova shots the men can be seen handing over money and speaking about how it is necessary to bribe a certain official. They also talk about possible violence, and according to Nova the victim was supposed to be the architect who worked with DoleÅ¾el and PÃ©Å¥a on the reconstruction of the castle in BudiÅ¡ov.
Social Democrats apologize for DoleÅ¾el
The Social Democrats, led by JiÅ™Ã Paroubek, have repeatedly strongly distanced themselves from DoleÅ¾el in recent hours and have apologized to the public for his behavior.
At the same time, at a special press conference today Paroubek pointed out that the DoleÅ¾el case was about more than the previously-known EU money and blackmail.
â€œIf I spoke 13 months ago about how he (DoleÅ¾el, editorâ€™s note) considers himself a new James Bond, his behavior now seems to me like the behavior of a heavy psychotic. And thatâ€™s not because of the corrupt behavior, but also from the reasons I know from hearsay. This was not about ordinary corrupt behavior,” Paroubek said without further details.