August 2003   česky

The success story has been grounded. Václav Fischer, the owner of the largest travel agency in the Czech Republic, was all of a sudden broke. His creditors had gone to court to impound his fleet of planes and anything else he still had of value. Travel agencies going bust in this country are nothing new, but this was Fischer, the man who started his business in Germany after fleeing the Communists, who came back after the regime fell and was lauded by the media for being one of the few Czech entrepreneurs to make his fortune legally. In 1998 the same media welcomed his election as senator, hoping he would usher in a new era of respectability in politics. He bailed out after a few years without improving the situation in Prague and with his agency in decidedly bad shape. Being the Czech media, they were quick to turn on him, with several commentators suggesting his company was now beyond saving. A fellow entrepreneur eventually came to the rescue, giving new meaning to Fischer's famous "last minute" sales pitch. A former colleague of his from the senate, Alexander Novák, has the opposite problem: Having too much money. His bank in Austria informed Interpol that Novák had 43 million crowns stashed away in his account there. He claimed the money could have come from any number of business adventures he's involved with abroad. The Czech police suspect it's a business adventure all right, going back to his term as the mayor of Chomutov in North Bohemia, when the city sold its stake in two utilities to a German company for a damn good price. Austria is also the source of problems for National Deputy Police Chief Ivana Pánková. She's under investigation for her role in the selection of an Austrian company over a Czech one for the delivery of police holsters that were half as good and twice as expensive. And the police blotter goes on. The investigation into last year's heist of a Group 4 Securitas armored car, when the guards all but invited the robbers to help themselves to the more than 100,000,000 crowns inside, was wrapped up. The police are sure they have all the evidence they need to convict whoever did it. They were not so lucky in the case against Pavel Minařík, the secret police operative accused of planning to bomb Radio Free Europe in Munich in the 1970s. The prosecutor's office has decided not to take the case to trial because there isn't enough evidence to go on. This after charges were filed 11 years ago. By comparison the case against former Minister of Finance Ivo Svoboda and his advisor, who are accused of plundering a company that made baby carriages, is moving along rather quickly. It's taken only four years for it to come to trial. At least Svoboda and his advisor still have each other. Not the case with Frantiąek Beránek, the director of a large insurance company, and Katerina Kaltsogianni, the owner of a small-time travel agency. Beránek signed a contract for his insurance company to pay Kaltsogianni's travel agency to take ill children to the sea for recuperation. The two were living together at the time, meaning they were running a nice little family operation out of their bedroom. But the relationship eventually soured and now Kaltsogianni has filed attempted murder charges against Beránek, months after the incident supposedly occurred. He insists it's just a promotion for a book she published detailing their turbulent domestic life. As for all that business they were doing together, Kaltsogianni would only say she's a private entrepreneur. Any conflict of interest was his problem. If it sounds like a made-for-TV movie, then chances are most people here have already seen it and everything else on. A recent report finds the time spent watching television has dropped by a third since the beginning of the year. Apparently not everybody who saw that New Year's Eve special cared to watch it again when it was rerun during the summer. The networks have promised to give their programming a facelift and nowhere is it needed more than on TV Nova's Peříčko talk show. Among the guests making appearances these days is Josef Lux, a former political boss who died several years ago.