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Audit clears former Czech governor Zimola of corruption charges

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Ceske Budejovice, South Bohemia, May 10 (CTK) – Former governor of the South Bohemia Region Jiri Zimola (Social Democrats, CSSD) presented the result of an audit showing that he did not breach the law when constructing his recreation house in Lipno nad Vltavou, south Bohemia, today.

Zimola was elected to the head of South Bohemia in 2008, 2012 and again in 2016. He was involved in the abortive “Lany coup,” as a meeting between some CSSD senior officials and President Milos Zeman after the 2013 general election, aimed to topple Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD), was called.

According to the audit, Zimola paid 4.5 million crowns for the house, which is more than the usual price. The audit set it at 4.1 million crowns.

Martin Blaha, head of the board of the South Bohemian Hospitals company, built recreational houses for himself, Zimola and former deputy regional governor Jaromir Sliva (CSSD).

In all, he paid 17 million crowns for the houses. The audit, commissioned by Blaha, showed that along with his wife, they had an income of almost 25 million crowns between 2009 and 2016.

The sum does not include Blaha’s remuneration for his work in the hospital board.

“This is what I have said from the beginning. We did not breach the law in any way,” Zimola said.

The scandal triggered a crisis in the coalition of the CSSD, ANO and South Bohemians 2012 ruling South Bohemia and Zimola was forced to resign.

The opposition also pointed out that Blaha had an income of 7.2 million crowns annually, which it described as excessive.

The opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) said the regional government could have taken money away from its hospitals and use them for the recreational houses in Lipno nad Vltavou.

According to the audit, 85 percent of the money spent on the construction project was paid to the companies with no relationship with the hospital or regional authorities.

“Even the remaining 15 percent can cause some doubts. This is why the auditors were dealing with the question of whether there were usual prices demanded by the companies that also had some contracts in the hospitals. The auditors found out that the companies did not work under the usual prices,” Zimola said.

The regional coalition eventually fell apart. A new one, comprised of the CSSD, For South Bohemia, Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and South Bohemians 2012, was formed and Zimola was replaced with his former deputy Ivana Straska (CSSD).

Zimola said the scandal had been orchestrated by some members of the party board. Sobotka has dismissed the allegation.

($1 = 24.497 crowns)

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