The National Centre for Combatting Organized Crime issued its annual report on Wednesday highlighting potential security risks to the country. It reported a growing number of sham marriages, particularly with citizens of Turkey, and warned of “uncontrolled numbers of people practicing Islam entering the country”.
Sham marriages, a lax migration policy with regard to Vietnamese nationals, growing Chinese influence and “uncontrolled numbers of people practicing Islam entering the country” –those are the dangers highlighted by the squad fighting organized crime. The common denominator is the effort of organized crime groups from different countries to establish a foothold in the Czech Republic.
Organized groups are reported to be behind the growing number of sham marriages registered in the past year or two, marriages between Czech women and foreign nationals seeking to obtain Czech citizenship and thus free movement in the EU. According to the report the authorities have registered a growing number of fake marriages with Turkish nationals in particular.
Several foreign organized crime gangs are fighting for space in the Czech underworld – Russian-speaking mafia from the former Soviet bloc states, Asian gangs and crime rings from the Balkans. They are involved in tax-scams, money laundering and drug-related crime and all have shown a strong ability to corrupt officials and penetrate into state administration. Now the focus now seems to have moved to legitimizing their presence by getting Czech citizenship – which would enable them free travel around the EU and protect them from extradition to their country of origin.
This year the Centre for Combatting Organized Crime has also warned of what it calls “uncontrolled numbers of people practicing Islam entering the country” which could present a security threat.
Jaroslav Ibehej is the centre’s spokesperson:
“I should begin by saying that the Czech Republic has not to this day had to deal with a terrorist attack. However the danger of infiltration by radicals is there, as it is around Europe. What the centre has registered is a growing number of agencies owned by Muslims being set up in the Czech Republic for the purpose of settling visas and residence permits for other Muslims to this country. The permits are often requested for the purpose of accompanying sick relatives to Czech spas and many of these clients are spending large sums of money which it is difficult to trace.”
The need to fight the threat of Islamic radicals settling in Europe is an issue of general concern on the continent. So how big is the danger of that happening in the Czech Republic? Security expert and former head of the Czech Military Intelligence Andor Šandor:
“I do not believe that our country is the primary target of people who want to come to Europe to do harm. On the other hand, to pretend we have everything under control would be foolish and irresponsible. So if this is a matter of concern for the police, then politicians should be aware of that and they should do everything in their power to protect this country from being a possible target of a terrorist attack. As I said “money talks”, and the problem is, it is often hard to trace – it is brought in a bag and handed from one person to another.”