Audit incomplete, Čunek saga to continue

Jiří Čunek, phot: CTK

The drawn-out corruption scandal surrounding embattled Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek is set to continue. On Monday, a private audit ordered by fellow minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, was supposed to bring closure – either to clear Mr Čunek or find improprieties in his financial dealings. But it has not done either. Although the audit did not reveal that Mr Čunek had accepted a bribe, it is incomplete and cannot rule out possible irregularities. Mr Schwarzenberg said on Monday that Mr Čunek had failed to provide investigators at the private US company Kroll with some 700 pages from a 4,700 police file. So the investigation will continue – as will the drawn out Čunek saga.

Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: CTK
For the time being both the deputy prime minister and the foreign minister will remain in cabinet – but how will this inconclusive state of affairs reflect on Mr Čunek’s and the government’s credibility? Political analyst Jiří Pehe:

“I think from the beginning the whole thing has been a bit of a farce. I personally think that we have to distinguish between political responsibility and legal responsibility and if Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg wanted to react to the political responsibility [in protest over Mr Čunek’s scandals] he should have resigned several months ago. I don’t think any audit was really necessary. In my opinion this will go on and on and it seems to me that the government, with Mr Schwarzenberg’s help, is just playing for time. This will continue for another few months, maybe then he’ll step down, maybe he won’t, but the whole thing is about time.”

RP: Opposition leader Jiří Paroubek was one of those who said that the Čunek matter should have been decided in court and not through a private audit. From the perspective of the public, do you think that court proceedings would have been preferable to the current situation?

Jiří Čunek,  phot: CTK
“Absolutely. This whole affair should have been decided in a court hearing. That would have been a transparent solution understandable to the public, where Mr Čunek would either have been sentenced or cleared of all charges. The fact that a single minister – who on top of everything has nothing to do with the judiciary – orders a private audit, coupled with the prime minister saying the matter doesn’t interest him and says that he has no problem with Mr Čunek – I think this really borders on the absurd. I have never heard of a similar solution in any government in any democratic country. I don’t know of any minister who would order a private audit of a colleague in government, where the prime minister would say he doesn’t care. It’s absurd, but perhaps its appropriate given that we are in the country of Franz Kafka.”

RP: So, in your view, without question a damaging situation for the government…

“I think that it is damaging and in the end it seems to me the matter will be decided by the public. This strong effort to save the government through unusual practices could lead to a drop in the government parties, especially the smaller ones, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, who may not make it past the 5 percent Parliamentary threshold in the next election. This could indeed be very damaging for the government and the government parties.”