In the case of the restitution of the so-called Bečvář’s estate, the court unjustifiably punished the former clerk of the Prague Land Office, Jan Horák, and his superior Eva Benešová, seven and six years in prison. Both are also to pay a penalty of 4.5 million crowns. He imposed an annual condition on the third defendant, Petr Chmelík, with a two-year delay and a fine of 800,000. The judgment is not yet final.
The indictment accuses the trio of illegally granting Emilia Bednářová replacement lands for real estate originally belonging to Jan Maria Bečvář. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, they caused damage of at least 1.4 billion crowns. Defendants deny guilt. Thursday’s judgment, in which the court also ruled on the seizure of some land, is not final.
According to the verdict, Horák and Benešová each have to pay a fine of 4.5 million, while Chmelík has to pay 800,000 crowns. The chairwoman of the Criminal Chamber, Jana Miklová, stated in the justification of her decision that Horák completely resigned from finding out all relevant facts for the decision, and that his superiors blindly trusted the concepts that Horák had prepared. According to her, the accused committed the crime with indirect intent, ie they should have understood that they could violate legitimate interests.
Officials defend themselves by acting in good faith and not making mistakes intentionally. According to their lawyers, they relied on affidavits submitted by restituents and had no doubt about the legitimacy of restitution. However, the judge stated in the grounds of the judgment that it was not an error but a “fatal” breach of duty.
According to Miklová, Horák completely resigned himself to finding out all the relevant facts for the decision, and according to her, his superiors blindly trusted the concepts that Horák had prepared.
The public prosecutor blames officials for several decisions from 2009 to 2012. Bednářová and in some cases other restituents received lucrative land on their basis as compensation for the fact that the state did not return the property to them after Bečvář in Strašnice and Žižkov.
Hornář described Bednářová as a niece of Jan Maria Bečvář, although she was only entitled to an inheritance from his brother Josef Bečvář, who introduced her in the will. Other restituents could inherit only from his sister. In several cases, the property was originally owned by all three siblings, and the heirs were to receive only two-thirds of the claim, sometimes belonging only to Jan Maria Bečvář, and not to receive it at all.
Up to 12 years for abuse of an official
According to the public prosecutor, Horák and Benešová committed the criminal offense of abusing the authority of an official, for which they face up to twelve years in prison. Hops is accused of obstructing the act of a public official for negligence, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
After the Bečvář’s siblings, the restituents acquired a number of plots of land in Prague worth an estimated three billion crowns. When they also asked for a plot of land in Žižkov, on which the Metrostav company built a residential complex, Metrostav’s lawyers found out that Bednářová was not a relative of the original owner. Their findings in 2014 were confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture. Horák and Benešová have to replace Metrostav with roughly 20 million crowns for land and failed construction plans for the occupied land.
The Land Office designated Bednářová as the owner of the disputed lands in 2012. When her claim turned out to be disputed, the Office tried to reverse its decisions by declaring them null and void. Bednářová turned to the Prague City Court, which ruled in favor of it in March this year, annulled the office’s decision and returned the case to him for further resolution.
At that time, the Senate came to the conclusion that the Office’s procedure was a purposeful circumvention of the law, but at the same time it also stated that Bednářová was “not entitled to acquire land under the Land Act” with a probability bordering on certainty. However, the Supreme Administrative Court annulled the decision on Wednesday, so the municipal court will deal with the lawsuit again.
The state is demanding the return of the land by several civil lawsuits. If Thursday’s decision takes legal effect, he could seek the annulment of the decision on land ownership in another way – by allowing the reopening of proceedings under the Administrative Procedure Code.
The Seznam Zprávy server has previously stated that the most extensive restitutions in the Czech Republic were used, for example, by lobbyist Roman Janoušek or businessman Tomáš Hrdlička, and thus they gained huge assets.