When a smart card system was introduced in Prague in the mid 2000s to serve for public transport and other amenities, it may have seemed like one more step in the city’s transformation into a modern metropolis. However, more or less from the off the Opencard has been dogged by controversy and allegations of corruption. Now, in the latest, murky twist, almost the entire city council are facing criminal charges in connection with the system.
Police have filed a charge of breach of trust against 10 of a total of 11 Prague councillors in connection with the Opencard, a card-based electronic system used for public transport and other services. Among the 10 is the mayor of the city, Bohuslav Svoboda of the Civic Democrats. Officers delivered the indictment to a meeting of the council on Tuesday morning. The charge concerns the awarding of a contract to operate the system to the company Haguess, the only name considered in a closed tender process. The controversial Opencard system was previously found to have been massively overpriced.
The Prague 9 district court acquitted the Social Democratic Prague
councilman Karel Březina, who was accused of withholding information
his place on the board of companies which were in bankruptcy proceedings
while joining the supervisory board of Prague’s Public Transit Company,
which constitutes fraud under Czech law. The district court ruled, though,
that Mr Březina did not intentionally commit a crime. The prosecution
immediately appealed the verdict.
Mr Březina was deputy to the mayor until 2011, when the coalition city government of the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 was formed. In the same year he was acquitted on fraud charges for the first time.
Lufthansa airlines have announced that it will cancel most of their flights inside Europea on Thursday due to a planned employee strike over salaries. Passengers are advised that Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf flights from and to Prague will most likely be cancelled in the first part of the day. The strike is scheduled to begin at 5 a.m., Central European time.
A new study by the Czech branch of the anti-corruption group Transparency International looks at how Czech courts deal with bribery. The study, which analyzed some 250 bribery-related cases over the last three years, follows up a similar analysis from three years ago, and suggests that some improvement has been made. One of the authors of the study, Martin Novák, says that by the far the highest number of bribery cases that made it to court relate to police road checks.
Heavy snow falls have caused problems on roads and railway lines around the Czech Republic, such as at the Tanavld border crossing with Poland, and relatively high numbers of accidents have been reported. In some parts of the country, 40cm of snow fell between Monday and Tuesday. With temperatures above zero, the snow is expected to thaw quickly and there have been warnings of icy surfaces on Wednesday morning.
The new owner of the truck maker Tatra, Truck Development, officially took charge of the company on Monday, after purchasing it for 176 million crowns at an auction last week. The head of Truck Development, Marek Galvas, said he had no plans to cut the number of employees or limit production, though he is planning to introduce a completely new management team.
A taxi driver burnt to death in his car near Prague’s Malostranská metro station after losing control of the vehicle and hitting a street lamp in the early hours of Monday. An eyewitness says he ran to help the man but the door was stuck and the car was engulfed in flames within seconds. The fire spread to a nearby traffic stand before firefighters got the situation under control. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
There was a story in the news lately about a new mobile phone app to help people avoid paying for public transport in Prague and some other Czech cities. Called FareBandit, it allows users to share information about the whereabouts of inspectors. The app won a local industry award, and the subject received quite of a lot of attention. But it instantly struck me as being one of those ideas that’s only “cute” for the short period it takes you to actually think about it.
The Czech police on Friday closed down border crossings between the Czech Republic and Slovakia for heavy trucks heading to Hungary and Slovenia due to poor weather conditions in those countries. Heavy snow and strong winds are complicating traffic on Slovenian and Hungarian roads. A police spokeswoman said it was not clear when the border crossings would re-open.