David Rath corruption scandal takes fresh turn

David Rath

The corruption scandal surrounding David Rath took another set of twists and turns this week as police accused the former Social Democrat health minister and Central Bohemian governor of taking an additional nine million crowns in bribes. Mr Rath is already remanded in custody as police investigate his involvement in a prior affair.

David Rath
On May 13th, 2012, everything seemed to be going well for the Social Democrat governor of the Central Bohemian region. His party was crushing the ruling Civic Democrats in the polls and the former health minister could look forward to the possibility of serving in a future Social Democrat-led government. But the following day, the spectacular fall of David Rath began. He was arrested at 8pm in a village just to the west of Prague, apparently in possession of seven million crowns. Rath, along with several others, was accused of taking bribes in relation to public contracts for the repair of the Buštěhrad Chateau, which was to be financed in part with EU funds.

Rath was released from prison in order to deliver a blusterous speech on the floor of the lower house
He was subsequently remanded in custody, with police fearing that release on bail could lead to the influencing of witnesses, continuation of criminal activity and even flight from the country. On May 16th, Rath resigned from his post as governor and also left the Social Democratic party. He did not, however, resign from his post as an MP. On June 5th Rath was released from prison in order to deliver a blusterous speech on the floor of the lower house:

“I blame the police for misusing extraordinary technical means, instead of using them to fight real crime. I blame the Speaker of the House for extraditing one of her own MPs within one minute. I also blame the opposition for being afraid to stand up to these misguided manipulations.”

Kateřina Pancová,  photo: ČT 24
Despite his appeal, his fellow MPs voted to strip him of immunity by a margin of 183-2, while six abstained from voting.

Now police are asking parliament for another vote in a fresh case. This time, Rath is accused of accepting an additional nine million crowns in bribes from the head of a hospital in Kladno, Kateřina Pancová and her boyfriend Petr Kott, both also accused in the prior case. Specifically, police are seeking to prosecute Rath on three counts: failing to protect the public interest, failing to properly manage public property and failing to protect public property against abusive practices. As but one example in the endless web of intrigue, the politician is accused of accepting a more than four million payoff from Kott in order to influence the outfitting of medical equipment for a hospital in the town of Kolín and a subsidiary hospital in Kutná Hora.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
Part of the evidence in the case has been leaked to the newspaper Právo, which published transcripts on Thursday of covert recordings of Rath, Kott and Pancová. In them, discussions of transfers of large sums of cash to Rath are devastatingly overt, with talk of “gifts” and “Christmas time” and Rath even quoted as saying the “beast must be fed”.

The fresh parliamentary vote is set to take place some time in September.