Usti nad Labem, North Bohemia, Dec 15 (CTK) – The police estimated the damage caused in the case of EU money fraud in the Czech Northwest Cohesion Region at 13.9 billion crowns, a defence lawyer of one of the suspects, businessman Daniel Jezek, told CTK on Thursday.

The case concerns the misuse of EU subsidies distributed within the Northwest Regional Operational Programme (ROP) in the Usti and Karlovy Vary regions, probably in 2008 already.

Twenty-four people including regional politicians were arrested earlier this week. Except for Jezek (formerly Civic Democrats, ODS) whom judge Martin Majchrak ordered to be taken into pre-trial detention, all of the arrested suspects have been released.

Majchrak said the extent of the fraud is unprecedented.

The detectives and prosecutors want to question more than 120 witnesses, he said.

Finance Minister and ANO head Andrej Babis said on Thursday Prime Minister and Social Democrat head Bohuslav Sobotka is responsible for the behaviour of his fellow party members in the case, because he was party first deputy chairman at the time.

Babis said the CSSD and the rightist Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which led the government in 2006-09, made a source of money of their own out of ROP and now, this is surfacing.

Babis said so in reaction to Sobotka’s statement that the case, in which also CSSD officials have been accused, concerns the past and that he will leave personal responsibility with the regions.

Sobotka also said he does not consider the case a problem of the CSSD, but of individuals.

Majchrak said on Thursday the case is largely based on the testimony of former ROP Northwest director Petr Kusnierz who was convicted of corruption and abuse of power and who started cooperating with the police last year.

Kusnierz allegedly produced a list of the projects that won subsidies thanks to manipulations, of the people involved and their roles.

The 24 suspects include former Usti Region governor Jana Vanhova (CSSD), CSSD Karlovy Vary regional branch head Petr Navratil, CSSD Usti regional branch former head Arno Fisera and Petr Vrablik who was the first director of ROP Northwest.