Saturday, 19 April 2014

Finance minister: Rath's arrest puts drawing of EU funds at risk

16 May 2012

Prague/Brussels, May 15 (CTK) - The Czech opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) seem to "dramatically endanger the Czech drawing of money from the EU," Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said yesterday in reaction to the arrest of the CSSD regional governor and MP David Rath on suspicion of corruption.

"I'd like to appeal to the CSSD to stop threatening - via its regional satraps and their favourite groups - the Czech Republic's financial stability and our drawing money from the EU," Kalousek, junior ruling TOP 09 deputy head, told Czech journalists at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

He said his apprehensions relate not only to the case of the suspected corruption of Rath, the governor of the Central Bohemia Region, but also other cases of EU-subsidised projects, such as the Krajska zdravotni health management company seated in the Usti Region, north Bohemia, and the Northwest regional operational programme.

Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) would not comment on Rath's case, he told CTK later yesterday.

He said he will vote for the Chamber of Deputies to release Rath for criminal prosecution.

Rath was caught carrying a bribe on Monday, which enabled the police to arrest him and start prosecuting him despite his immunity of an MP. Lower house deputy head Miroslava Nemcova gave consent to his transfer to court.

The Chamber of Deputies is expected to definitively decide on whether Rath's prosecution is admissible at its session that starts on June 5.

Petr Bendl (ODS), agriculture minister and Rath's predecessor in the governor's post, said Rath's arrest has been the most serious incident since the 1989 fall of communism because a high-ranking politician was arrested.

Unfortunately, it will result in Central Bohemia losing EU subsidies. This means a suspension of the region's drawing the money. Innocent people will be harmed, Bendl said.

TOP 09 chairman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the Czech police recently have not shunned cracking down on high-ranking politicians.

This is a breakthrough, a good sign and a symbol of the Czech Republic becoming a European country, Schwarzenberg said.

Earlier yesterday, the police launched criminal prosecution of Rath and another seven people. All of them were arrested on Monday on suspicion of harming the EU's interests, taking and giving bribes and negotiating advantages in public procurement.

Rath has been accused of bribe taking. He was caught carrying 7 million crowns, state attorney Lenka Bradacova has told the media.

($1=19.744 crowns)

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