If you’ve found religion, give your fortune to poor, Zeman tells protégé turned foe Gross

Stanislav Gross, photo: Czech Television

Once Europe’s youngest leader, Stanislav Gross quit politics over a financial scandal before becoming mega rich through a shares deal. No longer in the public eye, he recently surprised many by saying he had “accepted Jesus” and apologising for disappointing the electorate. Now the Czech president says that if Mr. Gross has indeed found religion he ought to give his fortune to the poor.

Stanislav Gross,  photo: Czech Television
A decade ago this July, Stanislav Gross became Europe’s youngest prime minister at the age of just 34. A fresh-faced one-time trainee engine driver, he had risen smoothly through the ranks of the Social Democrats and was a favourite of then chairman Miloš Zeman. Indeed, Mr. Zeman was best man at his wedding.

However, Mr. Gross’s career at the very top was short-lived. He couldn’t explain where he had got the money to buy his apartment and was forced to resign in April 2005.

Mr. Gross, who is reportedly suffering from paralysis of one arm, has generally kept a low profile. Until, that is, he appeared in footage from a Czech TV documentary series on ex-prime ministers that was broadcast at the end of April.

It was a pale looking 44-year-old who told the cameras he had found religion and regretted his handling of the flat-financing scandal.

“The way I look at it, I was punished for not speaking the truth. After leaving politics I experienced many amazing things in my personal life. I had the chance to really straighten out my relationships at home. And I also experienced some progress in my spiritual life. I accepted Christ, and I think I now live a far freer inner life.”

These comments surprised many and provoked a mixed reaction, though Miloš Zeman, who is now president, merely issued a neutral statement saying it was up to citizens whether they accepted his words.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
But in an interview on the radio station Frekvence 1 on Wednesday, Mr. Zeman, who has long since fallen out with Mr. Gross, had this to say about his one-time protégé.

“If Stanislav Gross has accepted Christ, he should remember Christ’s words to a young man – and Stanislav Gross is himself still young – when he said, give your property away to the poor and follow me. In other words, if Stanislav Gross has accepted Christ, he should give away his property. But I strongly doubt that he will.”

Were he to heed the president’s words, Mr. Gross would certainly have plenty to give to the needy. After leaving politics he reappeared on the front pages in the late 2000s; a share deal he was involved in saw him reap a scarcely credible CZK 150 million on an investment of CZK 21 million, a stake he said he had borrowed.