National Security

A Scandal In Bohemia: Czech Government Rocked by Selling Visas to 400 Iranian ‘Businessmen’

When it comes to aiding and abetting American adversaries, Czech President Milos Zeman has just surpassed himself. A self-admitted Putin puppet and an enabler of Chinese interests, he has made the Czech Republic an entry point for intelligence activities of both adversaries. Now he is providing the same service to the Iranians.

The Czech ambassador to Iran resigned this week amid reports he sold coveted Schengen visas to Iranian “businessmen.” Schengen visas allow unrestricted travel inside the EU, no matter which country issues them. They are ideal travel documents for any foreign agents wishing to mask their travel from one country to another.

Czech media reported that two of Zeman’s confidants were involved in the visa corruption scandal. The ambassador has resigned, and authorities are investigating the issuance of 400 visas to Iranian nationals that are at large in the EU. Iranian intelligence is notorious for its operatives and connections to terrorism, including Hezbollah activities.

This isn’t the first connection between the Czech president and Hezbollah-linked activities. In 2015 Ali Fayad, a Hezbollah operative with connections to Russian intelligence, was arrested by Czech authorities in a joint operation with the U.S. DEA. The sting was part of a global operation called Operation Cassandra. Fayad could have been a key source of information for U.S. anti-terrorism activities.

But Fayad escaped U.S. justice because Czech Minister of Justice Pelikan blocked his extradition to the U.S. despite a court order allowing it. The U.S. government was outraged and condemned the release of a terrorist wanted for a “conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the U.S.”  Fayad is now at large. Pelikan was a political appointee from the ANO party, controlled by current Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Milos Zeman was quick to endorse Fayad’s release and didn’t deny his coordination with the Kremlin, as reported by the media. Andrej Babis, however, whose minister actually released the terrorist, remained silent. Babis is a close ally of Milos Zeman and often panders to Zeman.

Now the government controlled by Babis is embroiled in another scandal linked to Iran, with probable intelligence connections. Over 400 Iranians now have uncontrolled, unmonitored access to the entire EU because of the private gateway opened to them by the Czech government. Babis has an uncanny knack for being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. The British say “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action.”

The hypocrisy in this affair is revealing. Both Zeman and Babis vehemently oppose Muslim migration to the Czech Republic, yet their government issued 400 visas to nationals of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a well-known state sponsor of extremist terrorism in the name of Islam. This gives the lie to their frequent posturing as friends of Israel, and once again calls into question their dedication to NATO and the Atlantic alliance.

Keep an eye on Prague, and on coming developments in the Czech government. It will take tracing only one terrorist act to the “businessmen” who bribed their way into Europe through a Czech back door, to bring down the government and the ANO Party forever.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Bart Marcois

Bart Marcois (@bmarcois) was the principal deputy assistant secretary of energy for international affairs during the Bush administration. Additionally, Marcois served as a career foreign service officer with the State Department.

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