Amidst corruption scandal, high-ranking police officials vow to clean-up force

Czech police’s organized crime squad has uncovered a case of widespread police corruption, arresting six suspects, four of them from within the ranks of police. One current and three former police officers from Brno’s economic crimes unit are believed to have covered up major cases of economic crime in return for large sums of money for years. An ongoing investigation suggests the network is much larger and its criminal activities may have gone far beyond that.

Petr Lessy,  photo: ČTK
“I would prefer if this news conference did not have to take place at all”– such were the words with which police president Petr Lessy on Friday opened a media briefing on one of the largest-scale corruption scandals within Czech police in the last twenty years. In collaboration with the Olomouc public administration authorities and South Moravian police, Czech police’s organized crime squad uncovered a case of widespread police corruption that went undetected for over 10 years.

Miloš Almásy,  photo: ČTK
Among the six suspects is Miloš Almásy, a former detective in the Brno economic crimes unit. The former head of the South Bohemian branch of the economic crimes squad, Michal Tofl, whose murder by a hit-man in Brno last year kicked off this whole investigation, was reportedly also involved in the Brno police gang. The head of the organized crimes squad, Robert Šlachta, sums up what has been revealed so far.

“According to our investigation, the suspects Michal Tofl and Miloš Almásy concentrated on victims who were active entrepreneurs guilty of all kinds of economic crimes, and blackmailed them by offering them access to their criminal files in exchange for large sums of money, or by offering them information about the current state of their case from other institutions involved in the prosecution of their crime. They also offered to influence the outcome of the criminal proceedings.”

Robert Šlachta,  photo: ČTK
In addition to current and former police officers, two men with no connection to the force were also active in the gang, as well as a police inspection officer of the Interior Ministry – one of the reasons that the activities of the gang were successfully covered up for such a long time, says Mr. Šlachta. The investigation has unearthed a total of 17 incidents of bribery, blackmail and abuse of office to date; however, it is not unlikely that the gang may have gone even further in its criminal activities.

“We all know that this case does not just involve those who are currently in custody and are being criminally prosecuted. We know that this network is like an octopus with many more tentacles, and we are not afraid to prosecute even in the highest ranks. I would like to call on the citizens of this country to provide us with any clues they may have, we will take all of them seriously and investigate them. The more suspects we uncover, the higher-ranking they are, the better.”

Photo: Czech TV Brno
While both Mr. Šlachta and police president Petr Lessy stressed that the internal control mechanisms within Czech police had in the end made it possible for this case of widespread corruption to be revealed, the reputation of the force has taken a severe beating in recent days. Last week, new allegations emerged connected to an incident from 2009, in which a Brno police officer was charged with brutally assaulting a Vietnamese citizen who died as a result of the attack. Also, a group of eighteen police officers, who were illegally working for filmmakers, were charged with abuse of office and bribery.