Guilty verdicts in Prague Opencard case
Two former mayors of Prague were handed suspended prison sentences and fines by the Prague Municipal Court on Thursday for their part in managing the city’s controversial multipurpose transport pass Opencard. The ruling, which will now be subject to appeals, is the latest chapter in a highly-publicized case going back a decade.
At issue was the implementation of Prague’s Opencard payment system for city transport, libraries and other services. Introduced back in 2006, the system soon attracted attention for massive cost overruns in the order of hundreds of millions of crowns, as well as allegedly disadvantageous contracts signed by the city with external firms. It was also discovered that revenues from the system were being siphoned off to an opaque network of private businesses, including to notorious billionaire political “godfather” Roman Janoušek.
Meanwhile, former mayors Svoboda and Hudeček rejected Thursday’s verdict, announcing they intend to lodge appeals, the latter describing the prosecution as politically motivated:
“I have said from the start that this was a made-to-order prosecution. It was ordered because I and my people ruffled some feathers when we started to clear up things pertaining to Prague’s transit system, and when we tried to serve Prague and the people of Prague and deliver some kind of prosperity.”
According to Judge Alexander Sotolář, who presided over the case, the men’s actions cost the city CZK 25 million in damages. State prosecutor Tomáš Lejnar, meanwhile, expressed his satisfaction with the verdict.
Asides from suspended sentences, the Prague court ordered the five convicted in the case to pay fines of CZK 40,000 each. In total, the Opencard system is believed to have cost Prague as much as CZK 1.74 billion.