Czech Ex-Premier Acknowledges Fault in Corruption Scandal

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PARIS -- Former Prime Minister Petr Necas of the Czech Republic acknowledged in an interview published Monday that he had shown poor judgment and said he had planned to resign even before he became ensnared in a corruption scandal that brought down his government last month.

Mr. Necas, 48, was forced to resign after the police charged his chief of staff with bribery and abuse of office. In the interview, published in Tyden, a Czech weekly magazine, Mr. Necas characterized the chief of staff, Jana Nagyova, as his girlfriend. She is accused of ordering the secret services to spy on his estranged wife, whom Mr. Necas is divorcing. "Our relationship is very deep, and I am counting on it for the future," he told the magazine.

Ms. Nagyova has also been charged with bribing three members of Parliament, who opposed a government austerity plan, with offers of posts in state-owned companies in return for their agreement to leave Parliament. In total, eight officials with links to Mr. Necas were arrested in an elaborate anti-corruption sting operation that included wiretapping Ms. Nagyova's phone conversations. She has denied any wrongdoing and was released from jail Friday, pending trial.

Elaborating on his extramarital affair for the first time and taking responsibility for what happened, Mr. Necas said he had known that being romantically involved with his chief of staff while he was prime minister was ill advised. But, he suggested, he was a man deeply in love. "Interconnecting a personal relationship with a working relationship is simply not correct, and I knew that," he said. "I must bear personal political responsibility for this, too."

Mr. Necas said he and Ms. Nagyova had both planned to leave their posts by the end of the summer but were pre-empted when the scandal erupted. He said that prosecutors must have known from the wiretaps of his departure plans and that the sudden and dramatic arrests in June appeared to be motivated to assure maximum exposure and embarrassment for him and Ms. Nagyova. "They knew that the colorful soap opera stage which they counted on exposing would disappear," he said.

Mr. Necas said he was bracing himself for the day when the intimate recorded conversations between him and Ms. Nagyova were made public. "It will be horrible and stressful for me, my family and Jana Nagyova and her daughters," he told the magazine.

The inquiry, the most exhaustive since the fall of communism in 1989, has been hailed as a seminal moment in the fight against corruption in the Czech Republic. But prosecutors have been struggling to build part of their case.

They had initially demanded that Parliament lift Mr. Necas's immunity from prosecution in order to charge him in connection with the bribery of three former members of Parliament. But last week they dropped this demand after the Supreme Court ruled that the members of Parliament accused of bribery were protected by parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

The chief prosecutor in the case, Ivo Istvan, said Sunday on Czech television that prosecutors would also likely drop the bribery charges against the former lawmakers following the court's decision. That would be a significant blow to the case, which many hope might redefine what constitutes corruption. Some critics have argued that the offering of lucrative state jobs to the rebellious lawmakers, however unsavory, amounted to political deal-making and did not constitute bribery.

Mr. Istvan, who has declared that the trading of political favors can indeed be a form of bribery, indicated that he was seeking to clarify whether Mr. Necas and the former members of Parliament could still be charged if bribery took place outside the parliamentary chamber. Prosecutors are also investigating whether Mr. Necas knew or approved of the illegal spying aimed at his estranged wife.

Jaroslav Plesl, the Tyden journalist who interviewed Mr. Necas, said in an interview that the former prime minister had appeared deeply wounded but also notably defiant. "He seemed seriously hurt and very much in a fighting mood," he said by telephone from Prague. "He is a man who is obviously deeply in love. There's no doubt about that."

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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