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Seven accused in Czech scandal

Czech prosecutors have charged seven people in a multi-pronged scandal involving the prime minister's aide, his estranged wife, the military, former MPs and kilograms of gold.

The arrests raised questions about the troubled government of Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas. Nobody outside the halls of Czech power seems to know what's going on or how the rapidly-moving developments are connected, but a list of them reads like elements in a spy novel:

- The Czech military was spying on the prime minister's estranged wife.

- Millions of dollars and a stash of gold bars were seized by hooded police in 31 overnight raids nationwide.

- Seven people have been charged with abuse of power or corruption, according to prosecutors.

Czech police and prosecutors said they believe Mr Necas' closest aide ordered a military intelligence agency to illegally spy on three people, vastly overstepping her authority. Prosecutor Ivo Istvan said Jana Nagyova, the head of the prime minister's office, has been charged with abuse of power and six others face charges of abuse of power and corruption.

The opposition is calling for Mr Necas to stand down and for early elections to be held. He has refused their demands and so far still has the backing of his coalition partners.

Ms Nagyova is suspected of directing the alleged illegal surveillance without any authorisation, the prosecutor said. Reports said alleged targets of the illegal spying included Mr Necas' estranged wife.

Robert Slechta, the head of the police anti-organised crime unit, said officers seized 150 million koruna (£4.8 million) in cash and tens of kilos of gold in 31 raids in different parts of the country. The prosecutors linked Ms Nagyova to that case but didn't specify her role.

Mr Necas confirmed in Parliament that Milan Kovanda, the head of Military Intelligence, and his predecessor Ondrej Palenik have been charged. In another line of investigation, prosecutors said two former Czech MPs have been charged with bribery and another one is under investigation.

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