Guilty verdicts delivered in corruption case linked to ex-minister Rath

Kateřina Kottová, Petr Kott, photo: CTK

Verdicts have been delivered in one of the most closely watched court cases in recent Czech history, with nine found guilty of corruption in a case linked to David Rath. The erstwhile politician is being tried separately – but seems set to also spend many years behind bars.

Kateřina Kottová,  Petr Kott,  photo: CTK
David Rath was once one of the Czech Republic’s most flamboyant politicians. Social Democrat health minister and later governor of the Central Bohemia region, he wore a bow-tie, employed language that was not always parliamentary and was open about having two families.

In 2012 he was the focus of international media attention after claiming to be surprised when police found CZK 7 million in a box when they swooped on him and a couple with whom he was suspected of taking kickbacks in connection with the renovation of a chateau and procurements for a hospital.

On Tuesday the couple – Kateřina Kottová and Petr Kott – were found guilty by a court in Prague. They received jail terms of 7.5 years and were stripped of almost CZK 30 million found under the floorboards at their home.

Seven others received lesser sentences. Among them was a woman who bribed the group in order to win a contract but turned state’s evidence. She got a suspended term and a CZK 1 million fine.

The defendants’ case rested on the claim that recordings made by the police were inaudible. However, the judge dismissed this claim.

David Rath is being tried separately from his co-accused and will not know his fate until his verdict is delivered, possibly next month.

David Rath,  photo: Filip Jandourek
In an interview with Czech Television, Mr. Rath questioned the independence of the court that sentenced his former associates after a trial lasting over a year and a half.

“From the start it has been a certain kind of political show trial. The judge is not impartial. Above all I would like to go before an independent court that will rule according to the evidence. By that I mean according to witness testimonies and according to expert opinions – not according to personal sympathy or antipathy.”

The state attorney accuses Mr. Rath of heading the group and his name was mentioned several times by the judge in his summation on Tuesday. So given the fate of the other defendants it is hard to imagine he is not now enjoying his last few weeks of liberty.

The judge gave the Kotts a term at the exact halfway mark between the minimum and maximum sentence permitted. If the same measure is applied in Mr. Rath’s case, he can expect to get eight and a half years.