Economic crime on the rise

More than one in five Czech companies have been the victims of economic crime in the last two years. This statistic comes from a new survey conducted by the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, who based their study on interviews with more than 220 companies, NGO's and government bodies. The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported on Monday that most cases of economic crime go completely unnoticed by the police; the few that have been investigated involved sums of more than one billion U.S. dollars. So the sums are getting larger, and the criminals are getting ever more cunning. Dita Asiedu spoke to economic analyst Jan Sykora of Wood & Company, and asked him what the problem was:

Jan Sykora: More focus should be put on prevention, whether it means re-drafting or amending some of the existing legislation. If the tax code, for example, was much more simplified, then it would be substantially more difficult for people to evade taxes. So, the environment in which we operate needs certain definitions and the clearer the definitions are, then it's much easier for the police to investigate potential crimes and for the prosecutors to prosecute them. Therefore, one should look at prevention and also the fact that the legal system should be streamlined.

Radio Prague: A significant number of cases of economic crime or fraud aren't reported. Why is that the case?

JS: When you look at the new laws that are being passed by parliament, there are so many unclear parts of those laws that you sometimes wonder whether this would not enable other people to find further loopholes within the laws - of course if you find a loophole, you're not committing a crime - however, I think if certain behaviours were more precisely defined or clearer then it would be more difficult for people to find their way around them.

RP: Actually, the ruling Social Democrats have promised to fight fraud - or corruption, in general...

JS: I think we see that people who everyone had their suspicions about are finally being put to jail, investigated. I think things are moving in the right direction. It's a learning process and unfortunately it takes some time but I do believe that as we are converting towards the European Union, there will be more pressure put on fighting economic crime. I always try to look for a pragmatic solution and in one way, I think the role of the government is still too big because whenever you have non-market forces deciding on the distribution of wealth, government tenders, and so on, there is always room for corruption.