Czech ex-minister Rath faces hearing over box of cash

Czech MP David Rath - file pic The David Rath inquiry raises questions about Czech handling of EU funds

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A former Czech health minister arrested for suspected corruption risks losing his parliamentary immunity after a special meeting of MPs on Tuesday.

David Rath is expected to attend the hearing, escorted by police.

Mr Rath has resigned as Central Bohemia governor and left the opposition Social Democrat party (CSSD).

A week ago police detained Mr Rath as he was carrying a wine box containing 7m koruna (£224,000). He is accused of diverting money from an EU project.

The BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague says the affair has caused a political storm in the Czech Republic, where Mr Rath has long been a prominent public figure.

Some see his political style as aggressive, our correspondent says, and in 2006 he was involved in a public punch-up with a rival politician, Miroslav Macek.

Mr Rath and seven other people were arrested last week over alleged bribery and embezzlement of EU structural funds allocated to renovate a hospital and castle in Bohemia.

Mr Rath has denied any wrongdoing and reportedly expressed surprise that there was money inside the wine box.

During the police operation a further 30m koruna was found hidden under the floorboards of his house, reports say.

In Czech law an MP caught red-handed can be arrested and stripped of his or her parliamentary immunity. Mr Rath is the first MP to be held in prison since 1998 in the Czech Republic, Reuters news agency reports.

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