Former police chief pleads guilty to bribery charge

Vladimír Kotrouš, photo: CTK

Former Prague City Police chief Vladimír Kotrouš appeared in court on Monday on corruption charges, roughly a year after he was caught red-handed with a suspected bribe. On Monday, he surprised many by admitting guilt. The case won’t end there: the funds he admitted to taking are thought only to be the tip of the iceberg.

Vladimír Kotrouš,  photo: CTK
Vladimír Kotrouš served as the head of Prague’s City Police force, impacting its day-to-day running for almost ten years: last November it all came crashing down around him. Outside a Prague restaurant, he was arrested by members of the anti-corruption unit, who had filmed him accepting a hefty bribe on video tape. Appearing in court on Monday, a year later, the defendant cut all speculation short admitting to the judge he had accepted a bribe of 150,000 crowns.

He received the money from Josef Jíša, the owner of a car service company, in return – he said – for promising the businessman he would try and secure him a contract – presumably lucrative – with the municipal force. In court, Mr Kotrouš denied any suggestion, however, that he would actually have gone through with the plan. He told the court he had only pretended in front of the businessman that he was in any position to help.

“This was only a construct I prepared to persuade Mr Jíša I had the power to help him, even if it wasn’t the case.”

His admission could land him in more hot water: charges could be upped to attempted fraud. The former police chief struggled to contain his emotions when he expressed regret.

“I know that I have done something very stupid and that my family, my co-workers and everyone around me have paid the price. For that I am truly sorry.”

Photo: archive of ČRo 7 - Radio Prague
The prosecution isn’t buying that Mr Kotrouš’ admitted mistake was a one-off incident, just the opposite, citing alleged payments in the past of 200,000 or 150,000 crowns, noting that Josef Jíša’s service company had been repairing City Police vehicles since 2004. In the view of the prosecution, the latest payment was simply insurance to ensure the relationship between the force and the company would continue. The prosecution, Czech TV reported, has estimated the illegal dealings would eventually have landed the former police head more than one million crowns. For this reason, his admission of guilt on Monday is being viewed as partial.