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Czech ex-PM admits relationship with aide at centre of graft probe

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Former Czech conservative Prime Minister Petr Necas has now acknowledged he had a relationship with his closest aide, whose arrest for suspected illegal spying and graft led to the government's fall last month, a daily reported on Saturday.

The aide, Jana Nagyova, is among a group of people who have been charged with illegal surveillance of Necas's wife, whom he is now divorcing, or with bribing parliamentary deputies who had rebelled against Necas last year.

"I have a relationship with Jana Nagyova. It is a firm relationship and I count on it for the future," Necas, 48, told daily Pravo when questioned about his private life in an interview published on Saturday.

Nagyova and six other suspects have been in police custody for a month since 400 policemen raided government and private offices and homes in the biggest sweep against graft since the communist era ended in 1989, causing a political crisis in the EU member country that may last for months to come.

The charges against Nagyova and others are a by-product of a wider investigation into what police suspect is an organized corruption ring involving businessmen and public contracts. That investigation led police to Nagyova and the others, but none of them is accused of links to organized crime.

A lawyer for Nagyova has said she acted in good faith.

Police have also asked parliament to lift the immunity of Necas, who remains a deputy and thus is protected from investigation, so that they could charge him as well.

Necas's close relationship with the blonde single mother of two had fuelled speculation among politicians and in the media in the central European state for months but neither Necas nor Nagyova had previously acknowledged it.

Necas, a church-going father of four, said in January he had separated from his wife of more than 25 years, and the couple filed for divorce last month, just before the police raids.

The former prime minister testified on Friday in the bribery case, centered on accusations that three deputies were promised jobs at state firms if they ceased opposing a key piece of tax legislation.

Necas said he considered the process to be political and denied any wrongdoing. Some Czech politicians and commentators agree with his view, and the case will help set the boundary between acceptable political horse trading and corruption.

Necas has previously said he had no knowledge of any illegal spying by military intelligence on his wife, which police say was organized by Nagyova.

Leftist President Milos Zeman angered all the main political parties by appointing his own ally Jiri Rusnok as prime minister to replace Necas, leading to a standoff with parliament.

That may lead to a prolonged political crisis in a country praised by investors for its stability, and could cripple policymaking, including approval of the 2014 budget.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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