Karel Srba resigns, taking blame for Cesky Dum affair

Jan Kavan

Heads have started to roll at the Foreign Ministry: one of Minister Jan Kavan's advisors, Karel Srba, resigned on Tuesday, taking the blame for an affair that has soiled Mr Kavan's reputation. The Czech papers have been full of allegations recently that Mr Kavan had approved the renting of a Czech government-owned complex in Moscow, in a contract that was described as highly suspicious. Dita Asiedu reports:

The Czech Ambassador to Moscow, Jaroslav Basta, says he warned Mr Kavan that he had serious misgivings about Hotel Cesky Dum - the Czech company that was to rent the complex - as well as about the contract itself. Hotel Cesky Dum was not registered in Moscow, was using the Czech Embassy's bank account and enjoyed a number of diplomatic privileges. Despite the warning, Mr Kavan signed the contract, saying that he fully trusted his subordinates. Last week, however, the Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes made the transaction public. Mr Kavan denies the allegations, and has promised a full investigation. I spoke to independent commentator, Jan Urban, and asked him to comment on the allegations:

Jan Kavan
Jan Urban: Jan Kavan has probably made the worst mistake of his political career. In my view, he has been warned many times in the past few years, that some of his closest advisors, including the head of his secretariat and the General Counselor of the ministry, Karel Srba may be engaged in not completely moral - in the political sense of the word - or completely legal activities. The speed with which Karel Srba was sacrificed, whilst in the past Jan Kavan defended him in prolonged battles inside the ministry, shows that this time it is really serious and it is endangering Jan Kavan's career.

Radio Prague: But many say that Mr Kavan knew all too well what he was signing - having also been apparently warned by the current ambassador to Moscow, Jaroslav Basta - and should therefore resign.

JU: Our ambassador in Moscow was the former head of the anti-corruption investigation unit and has a very clear sense of what is and what is not possible within the Czech legal system. So, once you have someone like that warning you that things may not be so nice as your closest advisors tell you, something like a warning bell should ring very loudly. I do not understand why Jan Kavan did not react to this warning.

RP: Now, Karel Srba resigned taking all the blame for the renting of the Cesky Dum complex. Do you think that he should be allowed to take full responsibility for the affair?

JU: We were informed, through the press, that a police anti-corruption service will fully investigate this whole event. If this is the case, then I doubt very strongly that Karel Srba will be the only person to take the responsibility.

RP: Today's Mlada Fronta Dnes says that we are dealing with one of two cases: either Mr Kavan is personally involved in the rather suspicious transaction, or he lets his subordinates do whatever they want. Which one do you lean towards?

JU: Judging from the last experience with Kavan's subordinates, I would opt for the second one but I would really trust the police investigation in this sense. We will see.