Czech branch of Transparency Int'l rejects accusation of embezzlement

The Czech branch of the independent corruption watchdog Transparency International has found itself the subject of a police investigation. This week the Prague-based journal Euro reported that the Czech branch - formerly a civic association - had misappropriated millions of Czech crowns, an accusation the organisation has denied.

For an organisation dedicated to fighting corruption in the public sector allegations of wrong-doing can be particularly damaging; a situation which the Czech branch of Transparency International has now been forced to address. On Monday, representatives including local branch head Adriana Krnacova, rejected TI had embezzled any funds. Responding to an on-going investigation, it said that the case was politically motivated.

Back in 2001, the Czech branch of TI - then a civic association - received a 30 million crown interest-free loan from Milos Zeman's government to hold an anti-corruption conference. Only half of the amount, Euro writes, was ever paid back. But Transparency denied the accusation of embezzlement and on Monday branch head Adriana Krnacova told commercial broadcaster TV Nova she saw no reason why "certain people" should be allowed to benefit from Transparency's name, presumably by dragging it through the mud.

Ms Krancova was alluding to a small Prague-based civic association known as Citizens for their Rights, related to a non-parliamentary political party that put forward the complaint. The party is headed by former Prague City Hall councillor Karel Berka who spoke with TV Nova.

Adriana Krnacova
"The loan was changed to a subsidy behind the government's back and without its approval."

The Czech branch of Transparency International has stated that it is cooperating fully with the investigation and has submitted all documents related to the case. Those are said to include a finance ministry statement approving accounting of the original funds. But even there suspicions remain: Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Monday that the paperwork on the subsidy had been handed in fourteen months later than required by the law. Now it is a case to be investigated by police, with the Czech branch of TI stressing it has no intention of further commenting on the matter until it is fully resolved.