Czech lawmaker charged over 'shoebox' bribe
(PRAGUE) - Czech police have charged an opposition leftist lawmaker with abuse of EU funds, a prosecutor said Tuesday, after he was nabbed with over a quarter million euros reportedly stashed in a shoebox.
Police detained David Rath -- a former health minister now serving as a lawmaker and regional governor -- as he was in possession of seven million koruna (274,000 euros, $352,000), prosecutor Lenka Bradacova told reporters.
The Lidovky.cz news website reported that 46-year-old Rath, famous for his venomous diatribes in parliament against the ruling centre-right coalition, was carrying the money in a shoebox.
"He was detained immediately after committing the crime," Bradacova said, adding Rath was "charged with accepting a bribe."
Another seven people were detained and charged with compromising EU interests, bribery and taking bribes, as well as fraud related to public procurement, Bradacova said.
Czech media said the case concerned the EU-sponsored reconstruction of a hospital in Kladno, a city west of the capital, which was controlled by Rath's district surrounding Prague.
The Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004 after having shed communism in 1989.
Rath's arrest follows a series of corruption scandals that have rocked the Czech political scene, including the trial of centrist lawmaker Vit Barta, who was given a suspended 18-month sentence in April for bribing party members.
Pavel Bem, former Prague mayor and lawmaker with the ruling right-wing Civic Democrats, is also facing problems after leaked wiretaps showed he had let an influential entrepreneur actually take decisions for the Prague city hall.
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