Industry minister resigns amid corruption charges
Prime Minister Petr Nečas accepted the resignation of Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kocourek on Wednesday evening, the sixth change to the cabinet in the last year. The resignation was preceded by several days of corruption allegations against Mr Kocourek and speculation as to the source of a 16 million crown payment made to the minister’s mother.
After initially denying he had any relationship to the funds in question, on Wednesday Minister Kocourek bowed to the pressure of the media, the opposition, and his own party, and addressed the issue at a special press conference. While adamant that under no circumstances had he unjustly enriched himself or anyone else, either through his chairmanship on the supervisory board of ČEZ, or elsewhere, his own explanation for the appearance of the money on the account of his mother was nonetheless awkward.
This admission did nothing to settle speculation into Mr Kocourek’s financial affairs, as the difficult family situation he referred to was his divorce, and he clarified that he had moved the funds in order to protect them. Whether the diversion of personal finances from a divorce settlement amounts to yet another crime has been much discussed since the minister’s revelation, with some lawyers saying it would amount to defrauding his ex-wife and a conviction of up to 10 years in prison, and others saying there seems to be no foul play in it.
In any case, the decision of Prime Minister Petr Nečas, when the two met later on Wednesday, was to accept yet another resignation based on corruption charges. The resignation of environment minister Pavel Drobil and transport minister Vít Bárta both came on the heels of charges that are being investigated by anti-corruption police. Nonetheless, Mr Nečas was very clear that while accepting his Industry Minister’s resignation he was not convinced of corruption.
Martin Kocourek may very well be innocent on all counts, but that possibility unfortunately has little bearing on public perception of the government at this particular point in time, when charges of corruption are as much a topic hitting the cabinet as its own stilted efforts to combat it institutionally.