Presidential Office Fined Over Contracts For Zeman’s Lawyer
KPR is alleged to have used public money to pay for Zeman’s private legal counsel. Credit: ZM / BD.
Prague, Sept 11 (CTK) – The Presidential Office (KPR) paid a fine of roughly CZK 150,000 in January for having used public money to pay the lawyer in a private dispute between then-President Milos Zeman and his former aide Zdenek Sarapatka, according to reports in Hospodarske Noviny (HN) this morning.
The fine was imposed on KPR by the Financial Office (FU) for breaching rules on budgetary discipline, the paper writes, adding that KPR is considering appealing the FU’s decision to the General Financial Directorate.
The court dispute between Zeman and Sarapatka, his former adviser from the time when he was prime minister, was triggered by Zeman’s statement in November 2017 that he had fired Sarapatka from his team of advisers for incompetence. But Sarapatka in fact left his post by agreement, as was later confirmed by the court. The case is still not definitively closed. Zeman’s lawyer Marek Nespala has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, which has not yet decided on it.
KPR paid CZK 348,428 to Nespala for representing Zeman in the dispute. After criticism from the Supreme Audit Office (NKU), among others, Nespala returned the sum, but only after the FU initiated administrative proceedings against KPR, at the instigation of the NKU, and ordered KPR to pay CZK 148,909 for breach of budgetary discipline, HN reports.
It writes that the fine order has not yet been officially delivered to KPR, but the Office paid the fine in January to avoid accruing interest.
“After receiving the fine order, the KPR will consider filing an appeal to the General Financial Directorate,” Karel Capek from the KPR press department told HN.
If the fine is definitive, KPR should seek compensation from the person who caused it, HN reported. Asked by HN whether it would do so, the Office did not answer.
Nespala declined to comment to the newspaper over whether the CZK 348,000 he returned to the KPR was then charged by him to Zeman.
“I am not relieved from confidentiality,” he said, adding that the dispute was not definitively over. Nespala rejects the notion that the dispute between Zeman and Sarapatka is a private dispute, although this has been confirmed by the courts. “We have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court and it can still rule in several ways,” Nespala said.