Authorities shut “mothership” of shady Prague exchange offices

Closed Chequepoint outlet on Old Town Square, photo: ČTK/Šimánek Vít

A downtown Prague exchange office that offered very low rates to visitors has just been shut down and ordered to pay a stiff fine. While some will welcome the closure of the Chequepoint outlet, concerns remain over other dishonest exchange bureaus in the city centre.

Closed Chequepoint outlet on Old Town Square,  photo: ČTK/Šimánek Vít
Chequepoint bureaus de change, located at prime tourist locations, have been a familiar sight in Prague over the years.

On Monday, however, staff began removing signs – including a large one promising “zero commission” – from the final remaining Chequepoint outlet on Old Town Square.

The reason is a decision by the Czech National Bank. It has just revoked Chequepoint’s licence, as spokesperson Denisa Všetíčková explains.

“The repeated sanctions that the Czech National Bank imposed on the company Chequepoint for shortcomings in the performance of exchange office services have clearly not resulted in sufficient rectification. For that reason, its exchange activities were brought to an end on June 11, 2018.”

As well as losing its licence, Chequepoint has been fined CZK 1.2 million for breaching regulations.

The firm was around for a long time, first opening exchange bureaus in 1990, shortly after the fall of communism.

Chequepoint had earned notoriety for offering visitors abysmally low rates toward the euro, the dollar and other currencies.

Journalist Janek Rubeš exposes Prague scams via his Honest Guide videos. He campaigns extensively against crooked exchange bureaus and has been celebrating Monday’s news.

“First of all, there were three of them in Prague [down from the original five] and a couple of them shut down a couple of months ago.

“But finally this one lost their licence today. And they were the worst. This one was giving 15 crowns for one euro, so it was very bad.

“Me and my crew always used to call it ‘the mothership of bad exchange places’, so we’re happy that it’s down.”

What for you is the significance of this move by the Czech National Bank?

Janek Rubeš,  photo: Ian Willoughby
“For me, this move from the Czech National Bank proves that they CAN do something.

“Because for many years they were saying, Oh, they’re not breaking any law.

“And this shows that if you watch them for a long time, you will find that they do make mistakes or bad moves – and then you can take away their licence.

“I hope the same will go for other exchange offices around Prague, because this is not the only one.”

I wanted to ask you about this – are there similar exchange offices carrying out similar practices to Chequepoint?

“There are many, many similar offices around Prague. They give 16 crowns for one euro yet they have this huge sign claiming zero percent commission.

“They’re at the Main Train Station, they’re in Dlouhá St. and in many metro stations.

“So I hope they will go down as fast, or faster, than the Chequepoint one did.”