Prosecutor pushing to keep bribery case alive

Ivo Ištvan, photo: CTK

Three former MPs charged with bribe taking were released this week after the Supreme Court ruled their alleged wrong-doing was covered by parliamentary immunity. However, they may not be completely in the clear just yet; the state attorney overseeing the case is looking into ways to get around the ruling and put the three in the dock after all.

Ivo Ištvan,  photo: CTK
The Supreme Court did not rule on whether former Civic Democratic Party MPs Petr Tluchoř, Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa were guilty of taking bribes when they accepted lucrative positions in state-controlled firms soon after quitting parliament last year, allowing the government to survive.

Rather the court said on Tuesday that if a deal was made it happened at the Chamber of Deputies, where parliamentary immunity protects members from prosecution for any “statements” they make. Since the ruling, a number of legal experts have questioned the court’s rather loose seeming interpretation of the constitution.

What’s more, the state attorney handling the case, Ivo Ištvan, says that he is still waiting to receive the complete justification for the court’s verdict. In the meantime, he is trying to keep the case alive and is looking for a way around the ruling, which cannot be appealed.

Ivan Fuksa,  photo: CTK
Mr. Ištvan told Právo that as yet it is not clear whether the Supreme Court’s decision also applies to actions that took place outside the Chamber of Deputies. The prosecutor says his team will ask the court to rule on this question when they have assembled proof – which he says that the police possess – that the alleged bribe was in part agreed elsewhere.

A previous Supreme Court case involving Public Affairs’ leader Vít Bárta saw him covered by immunity for allegedly offering a cash bribe in the lower house, but still put on trial for handing over a stuffed envelope at another location.

While Mr. Ištvan says the case is still ongoing, former prime minister Petr Nečas, whose government fell partly as a result of the bribery charges, has continued to lambast the man he holds to blame.

After first calling for the state attorney to resign, Mr. Nečas has begun referring to the affair as “Ištvangate”. He wants the prosecutor to face disciplinary proceedings, a suggestion rejected by the minister of justice.

Petr Nečas,  photo: CTK
The three former MPs may have got their freedom back (at least for now). But, according to press reports, Messrs Šnajdr and Fuksa look set to lose the cushy, high-paying jobs that put them in hot water in the first place. Mr. Tluchoř, evidently fearing possible prosecution, had given “his” post to a friend.