Top anti-graft cop quits over spat with state attorney

Tomáš Martinec, Martin Červíček, photo: CTK

The Czech police’s anti-corruption unit has been relatively visible in recent times, with operations culminating in charges against two former ministers. But now the unit’s head has announced he is to quit after a spat with the high state attorney, who had levelled some damning charges against his department.

Tomáš Martinec, Martin Červíček, photo: CTK
When Tomáš Martinec was appointed in 2011 to head the Czech police’s Unit for Combating Corruption and Financial Crime he pledged to uncover graft at the very highest levels.

Martinec appeared to be making progress, with the unit’s operations recently resulting in charges being filed against David Rath, a former health minister, and Martin Barták, who headed the Ministry of Defence.

Other big names were also fingered, and there was a sharp rise in the number of people tried on the basis of the department’s work.

However, it has recently emerged that the officer has poor relations to say the least with an official he ought to be working closely with: Lenka Bradáčová, the high state attorney. She is a respected figure who many Czechs – thoroughly sick of corruption – hope can help bring about genuine change.

A recording emerged of Bradáčová informally telling a radio presenter that Martinec was working on fabricating a case, linked to a state contract, against her estranged husband; this led to speculation of a war between the two sides.

Lenka Bradáčová, photo: Filip Jandourek
However, even before the publication of the tape she had sent a written request to the police president, Martin Červíček, to evaluate the work of his subordinate. She believed that information was leaking from the anti-graft unit that could damage state cases.

Meanwhile, the minister of justice, Pavel Blažek, publicly backed the high state attorney, saying the anti-corruption police were employing practices straight out of 1950s communism.

Martinec has vehemently denied gathering compromising material aimed at discrediting Bradáčová. However, the tensions between them made it likely that one would have to go.

On Monday it became clear it would be the police chief, who announced at a hastily organised news conference that he would stand down in May.

Martinec told reporters his team had done good work, but that it had been undermined by the media coverage of the situation. The police president said he had acted “like a man” in resigning.

Petr Nečas, photo: Filip Jandourek
Among those to react was the prime minister, Petr Nečas, who said he hoped the move would spell an improvement in communication between the anti-corruption police and the country’s state attorney’s offices.

However, a lot remains unclear about the whole matter and more details may yet emerge about what has really been happening at the anti-corruption unit. Questions have also been raised about cases in which its officers appeared to drag their heels.