Czech court places Prague castle under administration

Prague Castle, photo: CTK

The official seat of the country’s president and Prague’s most important landmark, Prague Castle, has been placed under administration – or distraint- as a result of debts owed to private firms. So is there a genuine threat that this landmark monument will be sold off to the highest bidder?

Prague Castle, photo: CTK
The ruling comes as a result of a legal dispute stretching back to 2001 and covers both the castle proper and St. Vitus’ Cathedral located on castle grounds. For years, private companies have been doing business at the castle – everything from conducting repairs to exhibitions. One such enterprise was a 2001 display of Italian renaissance and baroque art in which a company known as GEMA Art Group participated. They say that the castle’s administrative arm negated on a promise to reimburse them for the costs involved. They also say that they are owed a million crowns for their services. Last June, a court ordered the castle to pay up. But the castle insists that no such monies are owed, pointing to the lack of a contract between the two parties that would mandate such a fee. At the same time, the castle is seeking monies from GEMA Art for what it claims are unpaid bills for rent.

I asked analyst Erik Best whether there really was a genuine danger of the castle being sold off.

“Well, I think it’s always difficult to predict what’s going to happen when the Czech courts are involved. But it seems to me to be a fairly minor commercial dispute and I find it hard to believe that anything would be repossessed. I imagine that eventually it will be resolved and we won’t hear much more about it. I know it’s been going on for some time, but it seems to me that once the media attention gets hold of it, then reason and logic is going to have to intervene and someone is going to have to lay down the law and say that it is absurd to try to repossess such a historical monument.”

The legal principle of distraint, which is applicable in this case, allows for the creditor to seize the property of the borrower until the debt is settled. Should the debt not be paid off, the property can indeed be sold off. So what does this say about the business affairs of Prague Castle? Erik Best again:

“I don’t know about what it says about the castle, but I think it does say something about Czech courts and the way it is possible to in effect bring about something that seems absurd to the public, but might be OK legally. We see it also in terms of regular seizures of personal property when maybe someone is legally in the right, but the degree to which the seized assets over-compensated for what is owed, makes the whole situation a bit absurd.”

Nonetheless, even the notion of Prague Castle being repossessed has led to raised eyebrows across the country.