Prague police chief arrested, contracts frozen in anti-corruption sting

Vladimír Kotrouš, photo: Milan Holakovský, ISIFA/VLP

The mayor of Prague has frozen all contracts signed by the City Police force and ordered a full investigation after the head of the force was arrested last week on suspicion of accepting a bribe. Vladimír Kotrouš, Prague City Police force president, is now in custody after anti-organised crime taskforce arrested him with a large amount of cash on his person.

Vladimír Kotrouš,  photo: Milan Holakovský,  ISIFA/VLP
Vladimír Kotrouš had to get used to being on the inside of a police van on Sunday after being remanded in custody to stand trial on corruption charges. Mr Kotrouš, in charge of the City Police since 2002, was arrested in his car on Friday afternoon after police videotaped him receiving a substantial sum of money which they suspect was a bribe.

Mr Kotrouš was apprehended near the headquarters of a company which provides the police with towing services, fuelling speculation that the alleged bribe was for awarding the contract to the company. However Pavel Hanták, spokesman for the elite anti-organised crime unit in charge of the case, told Czech Television he was unable to comment on the claims for risk of jeopardising the investigation:

Photo: Barbora Němcová
“All I can tell you at the moment is that the money seized was in Czech crowns, and that it was not a small amount of money – i.e. we are not just talking about a couple of thousand or something. As to claims that this money is somehow connected to the contract for towing services – I’m afraid I’m unable to comment on any concrete allegations at this point in time.”

Vladimír Kotrouš could face up to 12 years in prison if found guilty; the case is likely to go to trial sometime in the spring. It would be the highest profile corruption case involving a serving police officer in Czech history.

Mr Kotrouš’s boss, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, has suspended him and also moved him to a different department until the criminal case is resolved. Mayor Svoboda has also ordered all contracts signed by the City Police to be frozen and investigated. Under local law all contracts over two million crowns - that’s just over 100,000 dollars – must be subject to a public tender, but anything under that amount can be awarded at the police’s discretion. The City Police have so far signed 30 such contracts in 2011 – including the purchase of pistols and mini-cameras. All are now likely to be closely scrutinised.

The City Police Hummer,  photo: archive of the City Police
The City Police under Mr Kotrouš has been the subject of criticism and even ridicule for its lavish equipment; it owns two Hummer vehicles, more commonly used by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also a powerful motorboat which has got its hull wet just once – during the 2002 floods.