Written by: Philippe Riboton
OUR COVER STORY last month highlighted the significant representation of former StB agents in the circles of today’s high-flying Czech business elite. The stir created by that story is illustrated by the reactions we have received – and those we did not receive. Let’s start with those we did not receive. As of press time of this issue, none of the business figures showcased in the story and registered in the ministry of interior’s StB list, nor the companies we listed as having had a former StB agent on the management board or the supervisory board (at least starting in 1996) have actually written to The Prague Tribune to deny any of the information that was published. This at least sets the records straight. Let’s move now to the reactions we did receive, which were, for the most part, of an informal nature. We expected responses such as those maintaining that it’s shameful to look back on that period of time, that it’s unfair to the people whose personal past may have nothing to do with their present professional skills. Or those who argued that the companies we quoted did not necessarily know about the shady past of their managers. Fair enough. But this view fails to acknowledge that our story wasn’t meant to point at particular people. As a matter of fact, we could have listed dozens (if not hundreds) of additional names in middle or top management positions in both Czech and international companies. Instead, we indicated networks – in other words, chains of interest and personal connections that were resuscitated from the communist times in order to take advantage of the opportunities in the free market. Whether those people like it or not, one has to admit that from politics to business, those invisible chains still pervert the overall system and – purely and simply – abuse the principles and rules of a democratic society. And then were the reactions from people that applauded our story, but pointed out a disturbing fact: there are still a lot of names missing in the ministry of interior’s list. Apart from raising some legitimate concerns about the way the ministry’s list was “administrated” before being made public, this should serve as a warning that the invisible part of the iceberg may be even more disturbing than we care to imagine.