May 2000  

May 27, 2000
He's a former Olympian with Zeus on his side. Or someone up there. A few years back he decided to get into the privatization business. The National Property Fund sold him a small department store valued at about $1 million, four times less than its actual value. As per law, he doesn't have to make his first payment for several months. Just in case he changes his mind. But he immediately goes to the deed office and is registered as the owner. He then takes out an insurance policy on the property for its actual worth of $4 million. Again, he has time to reconsider before actually paying the premium, but he's officially insured. Now just when you think the fire department is about to have a big job on its hands, the skies open up and flood the entire region. The insurance company, which never saw a dime, had to fork over $100,000 dollars for the store. The Olympian could have used the money to make at least a down payment for the store, but he decided he no longer wanted it. Or need it.

May 20, 2000
A member of the parliament would very much like to clear her name. Mrs. Mullerova has been accused of financial machinace - improprieties - at the firm where she worked before coming to office. The only problem is that politicians in this country have immunity from prosecution. She wants a trial to clear her name, but can't have one until her immunity is lifted. Won't her colleagues please be so kind as to do that for her, she's asking. One, at least, isn't about to offer her a sympathetic ear. He's the Saltman, the former director of the nation's largest bank when a scam involving $150 million was pulled off in his vaults with the slightest of ease. Now in the senate, Saltman has no interest in a trial of any sort. He maintains his innocence, though, and to prove it, he's conducted business with the firm that perpetrated the scam even after the story broke. And why not? He has nothing to hide except all those millions.

May 13, 2000
In the annals of battles that have had absolutely no effect on the course of history, the Prague Uprising ranks near the bottom of the list. Unlike Warsaw or Dresden, Prague had managed to escape the worst ravages of World War II, mostly by sleeping through it. With the war all but over, a few courageous careerists couldn't resist the opportunity to curry favor with the approaching Russians. So they rose up against the Germans and succeeded in adding to the overall body count. A reenactment of the battle was staged on the streets of Prague last week. Some of it was authentic, some it not. In 1945, a Soviet tank did rumble into the city to complete its liberation, but you can't tell me it carried the same third-party liability insurance the one used last week had to have before it was allowed to participate in the event.

May 6, 2000
Mayday used to be a time here when Soviet flags appeared in most windows and soudruzi ("comrades") flocked to parades in honor of the ruling class. The flags and parades disappeared the moment communism did, as if to show that the camaraderie with the former Soviet Union had just been a hollow pretense. The Czech people were never like the Russians to begin with, went the conventional wisdom. Now it's these words that are proving to be the hollow pretense. When it comes to white collar crime, the two countries are once again marching step in step. It's become so bad here that Poland, Hungary, even little Estonia are leaving the Czech Republic behind in the race to join the European Union. This past Mayday, the Premier admitted that his cabinet has done little to clean up the mess. He should know. His first minister of finance was locked up on charges of ransacking the company he ran before being asked to handle the nation's finances. After his release, the ex-minister appeared before his friends in the parliament to talk about reforming the prison system...just in case the rest of them end up there.