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Czechia

9. Corruption  

Current law criminalizes both payment and receipt of bribes, regardless of the perpetrator’s nationality.  Prison sentences for bribery or abuse of power can be as high as 12 years for officials.  There have been several successful cases prosecuting corruption, though some experts have noted proceedings can be lengthy and subject to delays.  The National Center for Organized Crime (NCOZ) is primarily responsible for investigating high-level corruption cases, however some experts have raised concerns about cumbersome procedural requirements.  Anti-corruption laws authorize seizures of proceeds or instruments of crime and apply equally to Czech and foreign investors.

Czech law obliges legislators, members of the cabinet, and other selected public officials to declare their assets annually.  Summarized declarations are available online and complete declarations are available upon request from the Ministry of Justice, which can impose penalties of up to CZK50,000 (approximately USD2,170) for non-compliance.  The law also requires judges, prosecutors and directors of research institutions to disclose their assets, however their declarations are not publicly available for security reasons.

In addition to the financial disclosure law, the government regulates political parties financing, public procurements, and the register of public contracts.  The law on the register of public contracts requires all national, regional, and local authorities as well as private companies to make publicly available all newly concluded contracts (including subsidies and repayable financial assistance) valued at CZK50,000 (USD2,170) or more within 30 days; noncompliance renders contracts null and void.  Additionally, as of November 2019, major state-owned companies are required to publish all contracts, except in limited circumstances.  The Registry of Contracts has a website in Czech only at: https://smlouvy.gov.cz/.

Public procurement law requires every contracting authority to post winning contracts on its website within 15 working days of signing.  Subject to limited exceptions, the law mandates more than one bidder for all public procurements and requires bidders to disclose their ownership structure prior to bidding.  In addition to general conflict-of-interest law, the procurement law also addresses some conflict-of-interest issues related to government procurements.   The Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) evaluation report listed missing whistleblower protection and regulation of lobbying as problematic.

The “Beneficial Ownership Bill” came into force in June 1, 2021.  The law is a part of a transposition of an EU convention on anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing and requires transparency regarding the real (or “beneficial”) ownership of companies seeking subsidies or public contracts.  The law bars anonymously owned companies from applying for public subsidies or tenders, although it does not empower officials to challenge discrepancies or irregularities in a company’s ownership structure, absent a court finding.  However, the European Commission asserted in December 2021 that the Czech law does not meet EU requirements, because it allows two types of owners to be listed for one company:  one with “final influence” and one who is the “final recipient of benefits”.  The European Commission also criticized the carveout that public research institutions, SOEs, political parties, schools, and some other associations are not required to declare their beneficial ownership.  The Czech government reported March 2022 it would make changes to the law to comply with EU requirements.

According to a law which came into force in January 2020, candidates filling supervisory board positions in state-owned companies must be selected in a clear, transparent process that prioritizes technical expertise and is reviewed by an advisory committee whose members are apolitical experts.  Separately, the government recommends companies maintain internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.

The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body MONEYVAL reported at the end of 2021 that the Czech Republic has considerably improved its implementation of measures against money laundering and terrorist financing since 2020.

The government ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 2000 and the UN Convention against Corruption in 2014.  According to the 2017 OECD Phase 4 Evaluation Report, the Czech Republic should take steps to improve enforcement of its foreign bribery laws, enhance efforts to detect, investigate, and prosecute foreign bribes, increase protections for whistleblowers, and better implement the criminal liability of the legal entities law.

Several NGOs such as Frank Bold, Transparency International, and Anticorruption Endowment Fund receive corruption reports online.  The reports most frequently involve minor offenses, such as attempts to bribe police officers or other public officials to receive benefits or avoid liability.  While there is not a specific law to protect NGOs involved in investigating corruption, NGO activities are protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom that protects civil society and free speech.

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