NEW YORK — Former prime minister Petr Necas of the Czech Republic and his onetime chief of staff, ensnared in the most exhaustive anticorruption sting operation in the Czech Republic since the fall of communism, were married in a secret ceremony Saturday, the Czech media reported Tuesday. The move was variously viewed by analysts as a declaration of love or a cynical ploy to avoid prosecution.
In June, Necas, 48, was forced to resign after his chief of staff and mistress, Jana Nagyova, was charged with abuse of office for using the country’s secret intelligence service to spy on Necas’s wife, whom he divorced in August. Nagyova was also accused of trying to bribe three members of Parliament, who opposed a government austerity plan, with offers of posts in state-owned companies.
But on Tuesday, Nagyova dealt prosecutors a blow when she walked into a police station in Prague and introduced herself as Mrs. Jana Necasova, her lawyer, Eduard Bruna, told the Czech media. Under Czech law, family members cannot be compelled to testify against one another, and analysts said this could make it difficult for prosecutors to prove that any order to offer bribes came from the former prime minister.
Jaroslav Plesl, deputy editor of Tyden, a leading political magazine, said Tuesday that the marriage could prove a potent legal weapon for the newlyweds. “The heart of the bribery case has been whether she was acting alone or on behalf of Necas, and now it will be very difficult to prove whether he was giving her directions,” he said by phone from Prague, adding, “That does not negate the fact that they are also very much in love.”
Over the past several days, the Czech media have speculated that Necas and Nagyova married in a secret ceremony after they were spotted at Chateau Mcely, a 17th-century chateau near Prague with a manicured English park, a spa, and a lake with a white sand beach. Tabloids have been offering big rewards for recent photographs or videos of the couple.
The two had been engaged for years in a surreptitious relationship that Necas finally acknowledged in July, telling Tyden that being romantically involved with a senior aide while he was prime minister was a bad idea. “Interconnecting a personal relationship with a working relationship is simply not correct, and I knew that,” he told the magazine, explaining that the heart had won out over the head.
Prosecutors have been seeking to prove that Necas, a father of four previously nicknamed “Mr. Clean Hands” for his anticorruption campaigning, was involved in bribing members of Parliament.
Necas has not been charged with any crime and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Nagyova has also professed her innocence and was released in July after a month in jail pending trial. On Tuesday, Bruna, her lawyer, told the Czech media that Nagyova had declined to give a statement to the police, saying she was “not yet ready.”
The corruption investigation, which included wiretaps of Necas’s phone conversations with Nagyova, turned up $8 million in cash and stashes of gold that prosecutors suspect was linked to influence peddling, the authorities said.
The case has riveted the country in a region that has struggled to shed a culture of corruption in the aftermath of the communist era. Corruption in the Czech Republic is so endemic that one industrious young Czech recently started a “crony safari” bus tour. The stops include the modernist villas of influential lobbyists and a single address registered to hundreds of companies.
The corruption investigation has been lauded by prosecutors as a breakthrough. But prosecutors have faced repeated setbacks.
They had initially requested that Parliament lift Necas’s immunity from prosecution as a prelude to charges in connection with the bribery case. But in July they backed down after the Supreme Court ruled that the members of Parliament accused of bribery were protected by parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Prosecutors are still investigating Necas’s links to the case.