“Czech law isn’t good enough”: Why mole for Russians may evade prosecution

News outlets on Thursday evening reported that a Czech diplomat with top security clearance had been caught handing classified information over to the Russians. However, a legal loophole means that the alleged mole could well evade prosecution.

Jan Lipavský and Petr Fiala | Photo: Office of Czech Government

On Thursday evening the news organisations Deník N, Respekt and Aktuálně.cz reported a bombshell story: A long-term employee of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague collaborated with the Russians and handed them classified information.

The man’s activities were uncovered by the BIS domestic counterintelligence service, and the story was corroborated by the prime minister, Petr Fiala, and the minister of foreign affairs, Jan Lipavský.

Lukáš Prchal | Photo: Czech Radio

Deník N’s Lukáš Prchal, who has investigated the case, explains what happened.

“They discovered that there is some kind of mole in the Czech ministry several years ago.

“There was a hint that there may be some man who is talking to Russian spies. From that time they were looking for this man.

“After a few months they identified him and were spying on him on all levels that you can imagine.

“And they confirmed that this Czech man, this Czech diplomat, had been using his role in the Czech services to give secret information to the Russian intelligence services.”

The emblem of SVR  (Russian Foreign Intelligence Service)

The man, who had the highest level of security clearance, top secret, was specifically collaborating with the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, reports say.

A senior official at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs since the 1990s, he is said to have come into contact with the Russian spy agency during a stint at one of the country’s embassies, in an African state.

The man became friendly with a Russian couple, in which the man was an agent, and things progressed from there.

Deník N quoted one source as saying that the SVR had exploited the Czech official’s “weakness for women and money”.

Illustrative photo: Chris Yang,  Unsplash,  CC0 1.0 DEED

The suspect repeatedly accepted cash for supplying information, including classified information, to the Russians.

The man generally met his Russian handler abroad, Deník N reported, and contact between them dwindled during the Covid period.

When he sought to rekindle the connection earlier this year, BIS moved in.

They informed the prime minister and foreign minister and the man was expelled from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and stripped of his security credentials.

Černín Palace - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic | Photo: Ludek,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-ND 2.5 DEED

While Deník N says it is likely the former diplomat committed a crime, he may well evade prosecution.

That is because evidence gathered by BIS – unlike police evidence – is not admissible in court.

Lukáš Prchal explains.

“Czech laws are not sufficient enough, not good enough. Because there is no way to use this kind of information, which was gathered by the Czech counterintelligence service, in court.

Photo: CT24

“So this is a really big problem. There is really a big possibility that this man will not be prosecuted for his actions.

“Because our law is not good enough, in these cases.”