Another blackmailer arrested in fast police action

Czech police have arrested a man accused of sabotaging railway tracks in North Moravia. The man threatened to carry out more acts of sabotage unless he received 15 million crowns. This is the latest in a series of similar attempts by anonymous assailants to blackmail the authorities by threatening to do public damage.

The 51-year-old man was arrested in the Prague's Karlin district on Thursday in a phone booth. He is accused of having undone screws on railway sleepers near his home town of Sumperk, North Moravia. Police say the man has a previous criminal record for burglary and theft. The spokeswoman for the Czech police presidium, Blanka Kosinova, told Czech Radio more details of the arrest:

"The man was arrested whilst making a telephone call to a reporter of the Lidove noviny newspaper. He had called several times before and asked the reporter to pass his message to the police. He was threatening to carry out more acts of sabotage unless he received 15 million crowns."

He told police he needed money and had been inspired by another blackmail attempt earlier this year, also involving railway tracks. Back than, an unknown assailant planted an functioning explosive device on the tracks in the town of Olomouc to give weight to his demands. That attempt was also unsuccessful, although the blackmailer was never caught. The police even dropped the money from a helicopter as the culprit requested but he never collected it. Police spokeswoman Blanka Kosinova again:

"He told the police that he had two motives. The main one was long-term financial problems. Second, it seemed to him to be quite easy to get the money, when the police seemingly met the demands by the previous blackmailer - they just dropped the money and he thought it would be as simple as that."

The Czech Republic has experienced an unprecedented series of public blackmail recently. The police say they have received "good training" from the blackmailers and developed standard procedures, so that the time from call to arrest is getting shorter and shorter.

While the Olomouc case remains unresolved, it took three weeks for the police to arrest two men in May who threatened to poison hospital food with cyanide. At the end of July, a security service officer was arrested in three days after he threatened to poison drinking water in pipes in Prague with cyanide and mercury. And most recently, on Monday this week, another blackmailer who wanted to spill cyanide into a water reservoir in Prague was put behind bars on the same day.