11 Individuals and Two Companies Indicted Over Corruption In Brno-Centre District Council
The charges relate to the payment of bribes related to 27 separate public contracts, estimated by prosecutors to be worth at least CZK 330 million in total. In response to the indictments, a blame game has started between different factions of the regional ANO Movement, with three local branches suspended. Seznam Zpravy first reported on the charges. Photo credit: KK / Brno Daily.
Brno, Mar 11 (BD) – On Friday, prosecutor Radek Mezlik filed indictments at the Brno Regional Court against Jiri Svachula, former Deputy Mayor of Brno-Centre City District, and 10 other local politicians and businessmen accused of corruption related to the awarding of public contracts in the district between 2014 and 2018. Two companies were also named as defendants in the charges, which include participating in a criminal organization, and accepting or paying bribes. If convicted, the accused could be sentenced to up to 16 years in prison.
There were 27 separate public contracts included in the indictment, with a combined value of at least CZK 330 million, though Mezlik added that the total could be more: “Since some bribes are not tied to specific contracts, the total value of the contracts was probably over half a billion crowns.”
The charges follow a raid by officers from the National Centre Against Organized Crime (NCOZ) last March. (Read more in our previous articles: “Nine people charged following police raid on Brno-Centre council offices”; “Four properties belonging to accused Brno-Centre councillor secured by police as investigation widens”). Svachula remains in custody since then. Other individuals indicted on Friday include: Petr Kalasek, a businessman; Petr Liskutin (ANO), formerly both Deputy Mayor of Brno-Ivanovice and head of the investment department in Brno-Center; and Jiri Hos, a businessman and an influential member of the Brno Civic Democratic Party (ODS).
Mezlik gave further details of how the corruption ring is alleged to have worked in practice, with Svachula at the top of the operation, sending his underlings around to construction companies to elicit bribes, usually around 10% of the value of the contract. As a result, the winners of the tendering procedures in question were known in advance. Nine companies are said to have willingly cooperated with the scheme. According to Czech media sources, investigators are interested in pursuing other leads unearthed as part of this initial investigation, some connected with Svachula’s contacts at the Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS), where he worked and held influence, and where he is said to have been given access to confidential information.
The case also threatens to filter out more widely across the ANO Movement, led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis. Police believe that Svachula organized meetings between representatives from ÚOHS and Jaroslav Faltynek, Deputy Chairman of ANO, and recorded conversations between individuals under investigation, including Svachula, contain references to “efka”, believed to be a codename for Faltynek and his son, Jiri Faltynek, a board member at Teplarny Brno [Brno Heating]. According to online server Aktualne.cz, Jiri Faltynek is also under investigation for taking bribes. Both Faltyneks deny any wrongdoing and have not been charged, but Jiri Faltynek suspended his membership of ANO on the same day the indictments were filed.
One day earlier, the South Moravian regional branch of ANO suspended three local branches in Brno, in Cernovice, Stary Liskovec, and Zidenice. This move expelled almost 40 people, including Pavel Dvorak, the vice-chair of ANO in Brno who has connections to the investigation. The decision was taken by former Brno Mayor Petr Vokral and his ally Tatiana Mala, with the support of Babis, on the grounds that the activities of these branches “run contrary to the basic moral values of the ANO Movement,” but has prompted a war of words about the reasoning behind the expulsions.
Representatives from the branches responded angrily, claiming that their treatment was punishment for supporting South Moravian Governor Bohumil Simek for regional second lead candidate over Mala, who was Vokral’s choice. Quoted by iDnes, David Ruzicka, Chair of ANO in Stary Liskovec, argued that nobody in ANO in Stary Liskovec could be involved in the corruption case as the party was in opposition locally, dismissing the claims as “a false excuse to get rid of critics inside the movement.” He went on to accuse Vokral of anti-democratic practices within the party: “Everything is managed by Vokral and Mala, and if you disagree with their opinions, you are simply out. Such behavior is unprecedented in a democratic party. We are disappointed where ANO, who started out as an anti-corruption movement, has come to.”
Quoted in the same article, Sarka Korkesova, chair of ANO in Cernovice and Deputy Mayor of the district, agreed: “We were obviously guilty of supporting Simek to be second in the regional candidate list. The situation in the party escalated such that Vokral ignored the recommendations of local organizations. The internal situation has been very desperate recently.” However, Seznam News recently reported that Korkesova, a former partner of Pavel Dvorak, was also a person of interest in the wider corruption investigations. Korkesova dismissed the reports as nonsense designed to damage the reputation of the ANO Movement.