Head of prestigious medical institute suspected of usury

IKEM (Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine)

The news site Seznam Zpravy has questioned the moral integrity of one of the most successful managers in the health sector, the head of the prestigious Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) in Prague, suggesting that he had made millions from usury through a company controlled by a suspect individual. The prime minister has called for the claims to be investigated without delay.  

Michal Stiborek | Photo: Czech Ministry of Health

Michal Stiborek hit the headlines this week when Seznam said it had evidence pointing to the fact that he had made tens of millions of crowns by lending money at exorbitant interest rates and high contractual penalties. Seznam says that in at least one case, a court found that the interest on late payments was immorally high and brought the story of an elderly man who had lost his home because he was unable to repay his debt on time.

According to the news site, the company Glenias House, of which Stiborek is the sole managing director and owner, lent money through Califica, to which he gradually sent at least 54 million crowns. Califica, controlled by Jaroslav Holan, who was earlier convicted in an embezzlement case, subsequently lent money to individuals at an interest rate of 48 percent per year and with contractual penalties of 140,000 crowns per day.

If the debtors could not pay, a debt collector stepped in - Stiborek's close associate Pavel Raab, who had been convicted of violent crime in the past, Seznam reported.

Vlastimil Válek | Photo: Office of Czech Government

Stiborek has dismissed the claims as an attempt to discredit him, but Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he considers the findings serious and is calling for the matter to be investigated without delay. Health Minister Vlastimil Válek has ordered an investigation, but he is standing by Stiborek arguing that he had passed strict security vetting.

“The vetting process involves looking into the source of a person’s assets. It involves strict security screening. And I want to emphasize that under Mr. Stiborek’s management IKEM is financially in top form.”

Many questions remain unanswered. According to Seznam it is not entirely clear where Stiborek got the 54 million crowns he put into his company as capital for loans. According to his asset declarations it was far more than he earned. He claims it was money he saved as well as loans from family and friends.

At first, Stiborek completely denied involvement in the loan business, but when confronted with evidence in the form of contracts or email communications, he turned around. He admitted, for example, that he kept a spreadsheet of debtors and repayments and communicated with Jaroslav Holan about individual cases. However, he insisted that he did not decide who specifically would receive a loan. And he said he had terminated the business in 2020.

Petr Hartman | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

Czech Radio’s commentator Petr Hartman said the case opens an important question.

“If these claims are confirmed – and the facts are pretty convincing –then there is an interesting discrepancy between the business that Mr. Stiborek conducted and the fact that he passed security vetting.”