State attorney unveils fresh evidence in high-profile corruption case
State Attorney Ivo Ištvan, who set in motion the corruption case that brought down the centre-right coalition government, but failed to get the three former MPs at the centre of the scandal in the dock, is not letting the matter rest. With fresh evidence in hand, he is pushing for the Supreme Court to define where parliamentary immunity begins and ends.
The court’s interpretation of the Constitution came under fire from several constitutional lawyers and sparked debate on how far protection afforded by parliamentary immunity could be stretched. A clear answer to that question would set an important precedent, potentially put at risk other deputies and in the long-term change the way politics is conducted in the Czech Republic. While the Civic Democrats argue that perks are part of the daily horse-trading that is an inherent part of politics anywhere in the world, state attorneys counter that there is a vast difference between wheeling and dealing that ends in political compromise and wheeling and dealing for personal profit. Commentator Vladimíra Dvořáková fully agrees with this view.
Olomouc state attorney Ivo Ištvan, who masterminded the high-level corruption case from the start, has now sent the Supreme Court fresh evidence pointing to the fact that the deal under which the three deputies agreed to vacate their mandates for more loyal party deputies in return for lucrative posts in state-controlled companies was not made on parliament ground only, but at several other venues including the lobbies of hotels and the Office of the Government. He has asked the court to say whether such behavior outside Parliament premises is also covered by parliamentary immunity. If the court should rule that it does not, the state attorney is ready to press new charges against all three former mps as well as against the former prime minister, Petr Nečas, who allegedly solicited the bribes.
Whatever the outcome, the ruling should bring the Czech Republic closer to a tighter definition of the term parliamentary immunity and indicate what is and what is not acceptable in politics –something state attorneys are clearly pushing for in their crusade against corruption. Many politicians now argue that while some aspects of political horse-trading are ethically unacceptable they do not violate the law. Whether they do or not depends on how the constitution is interpreted and as in many other cases the Czech Constitution allows for dual or varied interpretations. So do we need a change of the law? Vladimíra Dvořáková thinks not.