It's been a stereotype that Mr David Rath, the current governor of Central Bohemia (a disk around Prague without Prague), a former socialist healthcare minister, and one of the most aggressive social democratic politicians in the Czech Republic is one of the most immoral and corruptible politicians in Czechia.
It turned out that it hasn't been a stereotype. It's been a fact since the very beginning. I've heard many stories about his previous methods to get lots of money (he was very poor right after the fall of communism) but what we got yesterday and publicly today sounds much more specific. Details will be investigated but the conclusion that he is a criminal without any moral restrictions to speak of seems pretty much unassailable at this point once he was taken into custody by police. The police president who informed the interior minister last night claims that they have worked hard – 100 investigators were involved – and they feel very certain about the case.
Someone who has seen into Dr Rath's cards has spoken (Mr Paroubek speculates it was Mr Filip Bušina, an entrepreneur who had similar legal problems in the past) and for about six months, police have investigated accusations of bribery, negotiating advantages in public procurement (i.e. manipulating public tenders), and misappropriation of EU funds that is related to Dr Rath, a female director of a Central Bohemian hospital, and about 6 other people (5 men, 3 women). Contracts linked to the hospital in Kladno and/or the reconstruction of the Buštěhrad chateau may be involved. Today, the cops finally decided to catch the rat on the street, near a sewer in front of his house in Hostivice, Greater Prague, a mile from the Prague Havel Airport (calm video from the event, rap). What did they find?
By a "complete coincidence", they found a David Rath with a shoe box and what was in the shoe box? Yes, exactly what you expect in a shoe box that someone is carrying on the street: the answer is either $350,000 or $600,000, depending on the sources (USD $1 is at CZK 20 Czech crowns again, due to the anxiety caused by the ongoing putrefaction of Greece as a nation). The actual damages to the country are higher by more than an order of magnitude.
That's a pretty good observation. I guess that Mr Rath was just going to buy some ice cream. More seriously, the planning by the police was probably so perfectionist and used so much overwhelming information that they were probably sure in advance that he would have the money with him, too. The cops actually needed to catch him red-handed; see the explanation at the end. It seems that the money was brought to the place by Rath's important friend, Ms Kateřina Pancová, the director of the Kladno hospital (another social democrat and Rath's #3 in the list of sexual partners after his wife and his mistress: he only has kids with #1 and #2). The money transfer could have taken place in her house in Rudná near Prague. Pancová and Rath are among the 8 arrested people, much like Mr Petr Kott, an ex-center-right lawmaker who left conservative politics because he was drunk all the time (the social democrats hungrily devoured him, a super-drunk ex-right-wing lawmaker was destined to become a top social democrat), and Mr Pavel Drážďanský, the director of developer Konstruktiva Branko who won the tender to reconstruct the chateau for $10 million from EU funds.
Dr Rath's P.R. department was asked to offer an explanation. They said: "It is not in interest of Dr Rath to humiliate himself by an explanation [which could be interpreted as excuses by the media]." LOL! :-) These last words of his political career may become another quote that will be often repeated. (Later, he humiliated himself in this way, anyway. He said that the shoe box was supposed to contain bottled wine: he was "surprised" to see any banknotes in it. I guess that he postponed this explanation in order to invent the most credible one and the wine was his winner. If he learned some kindergarten physics, he would be able to distinguish bottles from banknotes.)
It's a good luck that they managed to find him. When it comes to corruption, I am a realist. I have no doubts that some people in the public sector – in Czechia as well as almost all countries in the world – enjoy some advantages because of their power. Potential for corruption is one of the largely unavoidable taxes that we pay for the intrinsically sick part of our lives that we call the public sector. But punishment is only meaningful and morally justified if one has a sufficient amount of evidence that a given person has done something worse than an average politician is doing or that he or she has received more money than an average politician or official is receiving.
Mr Pavel Bém, the former mayor of Prague who is also a physician and who has been to the peak of Mt Everest, has been harassed due to some telephone calls with his friend, an entrepreneur, and these conversations could have been interpreted as a suggestion that the entrepreneur may have helped to buy shoes for Dr Bém or something like that, and maybe these shoes were really bought, and if they were bought, it could have been corruption, and so on and so on.
I would always think: are you joking? You don't have evidence for any wrongdoing, certainly not something that would be really dangerous and non-negligible, and what we should really worry about here is that the ex-mayor was eavesdropped and someone controls P.R. machineries that may use these conversations against the ex-mayor – or anyone else. I don't give a damn whether he received shoes because of a billion-of-crowns decision.
This was how a center-right politician, a former candidate or "prince" to lead the conservative Civic Democratic Party, was treated. Today, however, a left-wing politician and a former candidate or "prince" who could have led the left-wing Social Democratic Party, wasn't vaguely accused of receiving shoes as a bribe. He was found with a shoe box containing about half a million dollars that seem pretty clearly linked to a specific case of corruption and/or misappropriation of the EU money.
A new product of IKEA that will flood the shelves soon
Now, don't you really see a material difference between the shoes and the shoe box? I can't believe that some people would be able to suggest that these two cases are similar. But in reality, some people would love to spread the meme that the shoe case is worse than the shoe box case! At some level, it becomes clear that the accusation of corruption may become a cure that is worse than the disease. It seems pretty clear that politicians from the political parties who were most loudly screaming that they would fight against corruption belong among the most corrupt politicians in a country. Accusations of corruption became a cheap tool to win cheap votes and these things may be more harmful to our country – and others – than the corruption itself.
I think that the voters who still believe someone who verbally wants to fight corruption (Dr Rath has been an elite in this discipline of accusations!) is just being naive. The recent corruption stories surrounding the "Public Affairs", a party that was the loudest one concerning corruption, should be another revelation for everyone who is willing to learn from the experience. The right attitude is to accept that this is happening to some extent and calmly introduce mechanisms and punishments that will reduce corruption. These mechanisms will surely cost something as well and when the costs exceed the benefits, it becomes counterproductive to increase the fight against corruption! At the same moment, it's important to respect the presumption of innocent for generic officials. The government simply cannot work if everyone is automatically assumed to be a criminal.
It's interesting that most of the politicians, especially the regional ones, who are involved in these debates are physicians. Dr David Rath, the guy with the shoe box, is a physician. Dr Pavel Bém, the ex-mayor of Prague from Mt Everest with the eavesdropped telephone conversation, is a physician, too. Some TRF readers may remember Dr David Rath from the following nice exchange with Dr Miroslav Macek at a stomalogical conference:
Dr Rath had publicly described Dr Macek's marriage as one that was motivated by the thirst for money (suggesting that Mr Macek's wife had no other virtues) – the same kind of slanderous talk that you expect from Shmoits and Shmolins and similar human crap.
In the video above, the host, Dr Macek – who was already decided to defend the dignity of his wife and himself – calmly says: Before I start to moderate our conference, please let me deal with one issue that is of purely personal nature: [SLAP, applause.] Mr minister [at that time] Rath was preemptively warned. I have warned him in the press. It is purely my personal matter. He deserves it. [Applause, Dr Rath is leaving.] Dr Rath: Mr Doctor, we won't be solving it over here. You have attacked me cowardly from the back side. Why didn't you face me like a man, face to face? [...] You are a coward! [SLAP, COUNTER-SLAP]
Of course, this exchange has become legendary and has been included in the Guardian's TOP TEN of similar events. Dr Macek had to pay $5,000 to Dr Rath as a compensation but the happiness that the smack brought to the nation clearly had a much higher value if it weren't priceless.
Ms Lenka Bradáčová, the Czech Corrado Cattani, a boss of the anti-corruption police unit that has shown much more skills than many others, and not only in this scandal. Let's hope that she will end up differently than her fictitious Italian counterpart.
I sincerely hope that they will be able to find out and prove the wrongdoings that has allowed Mr Rath to carry half a million in a shoe box exactly when he was caught by the police so that he will be allowed to spend many, many years in a prison (estimates talk about 12 years, let's see). My hope for a thorough derathization is connected not only with the fact that Mr Rath is not only a socialist (who has worked hard on his power under many other colors in the past, however, but this kind of immoral folks is what Mr Paroubek wanted to attract intohis party) and a guy who sometimes lives with his wife and sometimes with his official mistress (one child with each) but more generally, he is an unquestionable, egotist, immoral rat.
Another reason behind my hope is that I want the ordinary people's obsession with the corruption and the conspiracy theory that being bribed poses no risks to gradually go away. In particular, the lawmakers' immunity hasn't helped Dr Rath at all: the receipt that police may pick Dr Rath was a pure formality for the chairwoman of the Parliament (who was the only right-wing politician who knew about the arrest in advance). ;-) According to our laws, only the Parliamentary Spokesperson's agreement is needed when the police catches a criminal-lawmaker during a crime i.e. red-handed (in order to make immunity disappear): so the cops really needed to make this tour de force but they succeeded.
Of course, I would love to hope that the incident will also reduce the scary, high amount of votes that the social democrats may receive in the next elections but I am not so sure whether my hope is also a realistic scenario.
The leaders of the Social Democracy have already apologized and indicated that due to the presumption of guilt in their party rules, it's a matter of days when Dr Rath will be stripped of his membership.
The Czechs are already making fun of a classic Czech movie, Jáchym, throw him to the machine. A psychiatrist in the asylum says: At this place, I've been telling all of them: don't accept bribes, don't accept bribes, don't accept bribes, they will make you insane. But these warnings are futile, futile, futile. Dr Macek who had slapped Dr Rath in the past has already explained that Dr Rath – like some other politicians who rise too quickly – lose their mind and start to consider themselves to be omnipotent demigods. Indeed, one has to be intrinsically stupid or insane – despite the rumors about Dr Rath's immense intelligence – to be a governor and to accept half a million dollars of bribes in cash.
Republic Rath, previously known as Central Bohemia (before all the towns were renamed as well)
Fortuna, a bookmaker, allows you to make a bet how much more money (and where) will be found in Rath's house beyond the current CZK 30 million.
The amount of parodies and jokes about Rath that were created within a day or two has been enormous; see e.g. an unmodified song from a TV fairy tale, We have caught a little thief. Among many other things, I liked this Czech poem (all "rath" below has been improved from "rat", of course):
Náš kamaráth demokrath
udělal si doktoráth.
Kolikráth si musel přáth
o národ se postarath,
až byrokrath na kvadráth
začal lidi nasírath.
V hlavě měl zkrath, státu krath,
i EU chtěl odírath,
ovčany by mileráth
poslal na dlažbu žebrath.
Když šel prachy provětrath,
troufli si ho vyšťourath.
Zbývá už jen zapírath,
kňourath, kárath, vydírath,
šance vidět umírath,
a dřív, než přijde slunovrath,
mříže budou zavírath.
Hlavně to však tentokráth
zase celý neposrath." :D