On Wednesday 21 March, Czech daily MF Dnes published wiretapping records of 5-year old phone calls between then-Prague mayor Pavel Bém (ODS) and influential lobbyist Roman Janoušek.
The story immediately became a major political scandal, as it revealed the degree of the lobbyist’s informal influence over the Prague City Hall’s decision-making. The Czech police is already looking into the affair.
It is believed that the wiretap records were made by the Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS) and eventually leaked to ABL, an influential private security firm founded by Vít Bárta. Bárta is the informal leader of junior government party Public Affairs and a former transport minister.
Last year, there was a similar lobbying affair in Britain, which resulted in the resignation of Defense Secretary Liam Fox.
Pavel Bém is an MP for the senior government Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and some have already called for his membership to be suspended. However, this can be done only by Bém’s local ODS organization. And since Bém happens to be its chairman, the decision rests on him.
Bém also cannot be stripped of his MP status – he can only step down.
Bohuslav Svoboda, the head of the Prague ODS organization and Bém’s successor in the Prague mayor’s office, has already asked Bém to suspend his ODS membership.
“The situation is very serious… If I was into the same situation as Bém, I would suspend my membership,” said Svoboda.
Two days after the wiretapping story was published, its other protagonist Roman Janoušek made headlines again. On Friday 23 March, he hit a women with his car while driving under the influence of alcohol, and tried to flee the scene. He currently faces a sentence of as much as 10 years in prison on two criminal charges.