New initiative calls for probe into links between politics and organized crime

A group of Czech NGOs has launched a new initiative to fight the uphill battle against corruption in the Czech Republic. Entitled You Stole Our Country, Give It Back, the initiative seeks to put Czech parliamentarians under enough public pressure to allow for a thorough probe into alleged links between politics and organized crime. The NGOs behind the new project include the Czech Helsinki Committee, the Romany advocacy group Romea, the student initiative Democracy Czech-Up as well as the Anticorruption Endowment Fund. Radio Prague spoke to the fund’s founder, the businessman and philanthropist Karel Janeček and asked him what the main goals were.

Karel Janeček
“The goal of the new initiative is to help make the Czech society more transparent and fairer. What has been happing in our country over the last two decades is a tragedy, and especially so over the last few years.

“What’s happened is that various ‘mafias’ have become quite powerful and they are destroying our ethical and moral values but not only that. It has reached such an extent that they are now destroying our economy as well and people get impoverished. So there is no way of dealing with the problem other than systematically changing the system, the political system.”

One of the initiative’s demands is to establish a committee to investigate links between organized crime and corruption. Who should be on that committee and what exactly should it investigate?

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
“There must be a civic committee. Otherwise, if you have a parliamentary committee, the problem is that in our Parliament, many if not most people are part of what I could call a ‘dark force’. These are people who are not there to serve our country. They came to Parliament in order to steal a lot of money, to get rich and so. That’s why the committee must consist of independent people who have a reputation in the society and who will carry out a thorough and fair investigation of the problem. And the need for the committee is obvious: we need the address the issues of lobbying, corruption and so on.”

You also called for the declassification of materials, collected by the Czech security service, related to corruption at Prague City Hall. What are you hoping to achieve by this?

“These materials should reveal all the contacts between [former Prague mayor Pavel] Bém and [lobbyist Roman] Janoušek. But this is only the tip of the iceberg; there has been much more going on. But the problem is that all this information is being hidden. The secret service might have provided this information to the government but our government is simply incapable of tackling the problem. So we see this and the logical conclusion is that the only way to start dealing with it is by exerting public pressure.”

Pavel Bém
What makes you think that this initiative will not be ignored by the lawmakers and the authorities? As you said, the committee would need access to all kinds of classified material. Have you have any response from the politicians?

“It is possible that the politicians will ignore this initiative, as they have ignored others in the past. However, we will try to put them under as much pressure as possible and use the laws to change the country. If this does not help, then, as we said in our statement, the only way will be for people to take to the streets.”