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November 25, 2009

Czech Republic ranks among Europe’s most corrupt

Studies show theft and graft are on the rise

Theft and graft are increasingly becoming a way of life in the Czech Republic, according to results from two recent studies.

The Czech Republic fell from 45th place in 2008 to 52nd on this year’s Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. The Czech Republic has a 4.9 mark on a 10-point scale and ranks 22 out of 27 European Union member states, ahead of Latvia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.

“An anti-corruption strategy by the government does not exist,” said David Ondráčka, director of Transparency International Czech Republic. “The former government had an anti-corruption strategy as a priority only verbally, and they markedly opened the door for private interests to influence political decision making.”

The least corrupt country in the world is New Zealand, according to the study, with several European countries among the top 10 least corrupt including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway. The Czech Republic ranks behind such countries as Botswana, Jordan and the Chinese gambling haven of Macau.

The five most corrupt countries according to the index are Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia.

“The main causes of corruption in the Czech Republic are the cartelization of the political sphere, politicizing of the public sphere and the narrower and narrower connections between politics and business,” said Eliška Císařová, project manager for Transparency International. “The visible trends of today are political corruption, opaque financing of electoral campaigns and the growing influence of financial groups on creating the rules of the game.”

Additionally, there are problems with the Czech judicial system, Císařová said, specifically when prosecuting financial crime.

“This logically evokes feelings of impunity from prosecution by criminals,” she said.

A separate study released by the UK’s Center for Retail Research found the Czech Republic had the highest amount of shoplifting of any EU member state. According to the study, losses by Czech retailers from theft were up 6.5 percent from the year before to 8.7 billion Kč. Losses from theft accounted for 1.47 percent of retail turnover, up from 1.38 percent last year.

At Albert supermarkets – the largest such chain in the Czech Republic – the number of shoplifters detained by security is up 60 percent from last year, and overall losses from theft are up 45 percent. Albert spokesman Lukáš Hora said thefts further increase during the Christmas season and frequently targeted items include alcohol, sweets and instant coffee.

“We have noticed regular attempts to steal small electronics; however, attempts to steal plasma screen TVs are not unheard of,” Hora said.

Eva Karasová, a spokeswoman for Tesco, said thieves in their stores target similar items, usually alcohol, cosmetics and sweets.

– Klára Jiřičná contributed to this report.

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