World Champion in Milking State Coffers

Lobbyist Josef Jindra had his party photos paid for by the world skiing championship

The name Josef Jindra has been connected to a number of scandals and murky dealings lately. Firstly, he is linked to the Nordic World Ski Championship that took place in the winter of 2009 and remains buried in huge debts. Despite the championship receiving massive state subsidies, the debt amounts to 80 million CZK. Former Olympic champion Kateřina Neumannová was the event's president and happens to be Jindra's girlfriend.

Recently, Jindra has become notorious for another reason. He negotiated the purchase of mortars from the Finnish company Patria, together with former Deputy Defense Minister Jaroslav Kopřiva, who has already been dismissed as a consequence of this deal. Jindra was supposed to get a commission of several percentage points from the deal. In a recording that the Czech newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes published recently, Jindra says that the "percentage will be invoiced based on the foreign country-to-foreign country system, like a sports event."

Much has been written about obscure relations between businessmen and tycoons and Czech politicians. A year before the championship began, Jindra celebrated his 50th birthday in the company of a number of notable people. Among the guests were, for example, Daniel Beneš, chief operating officer of the energy giant ČEZ; Evžen Hart, a board member at PPF, one of the country's most powerful financial groups; and politicians Jan Kasal, of the Christian Democrats, and Pavel Severa, of TOP 09. Also in attendance were Deputy Education Minister Jan Kocourek and Liberec Mayor Jiří Kittner, representing the state and the city respectively, who were there to ensure the smooth running of the championship.

Respekt was the first media outlet to receive and publish the photographs. Now comes the most controversial aspect of the affair -- the photographer, Ota Mrákota, claims that Jindra told him to invoice the championship management for taking the pictures. The fee was only 8,000 CZK but is drawn from state funds.

Many of Jindra's guests don't see anything wrong in being present at the party.

"We aren't good friends and I haven't seen him for weeks," said Kasal when asked about his presence at the party. "I had no idea of his activities at the Defense Ministry," he is quick to add, referring to the recent bribery case.

Others claim that they merely fulfilled their social role, regarding birthday parties as private matters. "It is perfectly normal that I attend somebody's birthday party," says Kittner, the Liberec mayor (Civic Democrats, ODS). "It is my own business."

"The invoice [for the photos] must have been signed by the championship president Kateřina Neumannová, or a manager," adds Kittner, who was a member of the championship's executive board. "I don't know who was in charge of these things. If that happened, it is wrong and Neumannová is responsible."

According to Kittner, only invoices over 200,000 CZK were supposed to be signed by a board member. "But I haven't noticed any inconsistencies in this regard like the one you are indicating. The only problem with the championship is that there are big debts now. But that is normal with these events."

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