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Opponents still critical of new police centre founded year ago

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Prague, July 29 (CTK) – Robert Slachta and Ivo Istvan, one of the main opponents of the merger of Czech elite anti-mafia and anti-corruption police squads into the National Centre against Organised Crime (NCOZ) that started operating on August 1, 2016, remain critical of the police merger, they have told CTK.

Former anti-mafia police chief Slachta gave up his post due to the step last year and he pointed to circumstances of the reshuffle that he considered suspicious.

“I absolutely insists on my decision and I believe I would do it again,” Slachta told CTK.

He said the merger was done in a hurried manner and “it was nonsense.”

Slachta became deputy chief of the customs police at the time when ANO leader Andrej Babis, who was the main political opponent of the reform, was in charge of the Finance Ministry that supervises the customs officers.

Olomouc High State Attorney Ivo Istvan told CTK that his critical opinion remains unchanged. He said on the NCOZ itself can show whether the work of the detectives improved or worsened in the new system.

A recently released report by the Supreme State Attorney’s Office concluded that the performance of individual sections and detectives within the NCOZ varied and the new centre suffered from personnel and institutional instability.

The report said the number of the cases newly opened by the NCOZ, mainly based on the police’s crime search operations, has been declining, though it cannot be said for the moment whether the NCOZ’s establishment is to blame for the decline.

The police management has been defending the establishment of the NCOZ and it rejected the criticism.

Official data on this year’s performance of the NCOZ have not been available yet. The police said they would release them soon.

Police Deputy President Jaroslav Vild said data on the first five months of the functioning of the new centre showed that the operation of elite detectives remained standard.

The planned establishment of the NCOZ provoked a rift in the government coalition last summer. The Social Democrats (CSSD) promoted the step, while the ANO movement challenged it, claiming that it aimed to prevent the investigation of serious corruption cases.

State attorneys openly criticised the merger, showing concern about possible departures of experiences police officers, the halting of sensitive cases and a lower efficiency of the new system.

Prague High State Attorney Lenka Bradacova recently told daily Lidove noviny (LN) that she can see no difference in the quality and efficiency of the police work.

Last year, a parliamentary commission of investigation was set up to deal with the controversial police reform. This commission did not reveal any effort at blocking police work, but it said the police management did not prepare the reform property and failed to discuss it within the police and with state attorneys.

The NCOZ recently started investigating suspected manipulations with subsidies for sport organisations involving the football association head Miroslav Pelta, and suspicious distribution of EU subsidies in northern Bohemia.

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