Intelligence Service (UZSI) Under Investigation Over Hundreds Of Millions In Lost FundsČTK
Prague, March 26 (CTK) – The intelligence service (Office for Foreign Relations and Information, UZSI) is dealing with the biggest scandal in the history of Czech secret services as its inspection is checking the suspicion that hundreds of million crowns were lost in it, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today.
Some expenses that the UZSI reimbursed are not backed by bills and others, such as a purchase of a software company, may have been overpriced or purposeless, MfD writes.
The current investigation also involves the activity of intelligence officers in the Czech Republic as UZSI is primarily active abroad and may operate in the country only in cases where its activity is based on information coming from abroad.
The UZSI inspection is looking into its accounting and it is interrogating a significant number of officials, of whom several have left the service at their own will, MfD writes.
Interior Minister Lubomir Metnar (ANO) refused to comment on the reasons for the investigation.
“The UZSI director, upon mutual agreement with me, ordered an inspection of the management of finance from the UZSI budget during the past period,” he said.
Metnar told MfD that the check was being carried out within standard internal control mechanisms and that he was being informed about the findings by UZSI Director Jiri Sasek.
Sasek, who still remains in the post, might be dismissed depending on the results of the investigation, as some of the investigated investments were signed by him, MfD writes.
However, Metnar is not to publish the outcome, as the investigation is subject to a secret regime due to classified information content.
“With regard to the fact that the final report will contain classified information, its outcomes cannot be commented on in public,” he said.
The investigation process is naturally complicated, as the UZSI frequently uses cash and front companies, MfD notes.
Commenting on personnel changes in the UZSI after Metnar took office of the interior minister, he resolutely dismissed any speculation as to the investigation being demanded by PM Andrej Babis (ANO).
Four years ago, when former interior minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) said he would have the Supreme Audit Office (NKU) check UZSI’s finance in connection with property purchases worth 100 million crowns, the NKU eventually was not invited to carry out the check and the UZSI was left to deal with the issue internally, MfD writes.
The NKU only inspected the counter intelligence service (BIS) twice, MFD cites NKU spokesman Kesner.
However, not even NKU’s check in BIS could uncover whether the funds were spent purposefully, MfD cites former UZSI director Frantisek Bublan.
It is likely that the NKU will not be dealing with the current scandal, which may concern unevidenced and unpurposeful purchases worth hundreds of million crowns, either, MfD writes.
Moreover, the size of UZSI’s budget is not known as it is “hidden” within the interior ministry’s budget.
As of the new year, the Chamber of Deputies established a commission for the oversight of UZSI, MfD writes.
The past four years, during the cabinet of former PM Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD), have been tumultuous for the intelligence services. A rivalry between the UZSI, falling under the interior ministry, and the military intelligence service, based under the defence ministry, was being speculated about in public, MfD writes.