Golden parachutes at Prague transport firm – business as usual?

Michal Prskavec headed city-owned DPP’s legal department for just 103 days but took home Kč 330,000 in severance pay

Politics & Policy|Companies
Ondřej Koutník | 18.06.2012

The 29-year-old burly lawyer Michal Prskavec on January 18 this year became head of the legal department of the embattled Prague Transport Company (DPP), which was reeling from allegations of corruption surrounding the departing company director Martin Dvořák.

Jaroslav Stůj, who was named acting director, decided to appoint Prskavec directly to the sensitive post, without the standard three-month probationary period. He didn’t last much longer — just 103 days — with his end date on April 30. But according to Czech Position’s sources, he walked away with a Kč 330,000 for his troubles, which DPP spokesperson Monika Lojínová said was the minimum allowed because he was hired for an “indefinite period.”

Prskavec declined to respond to questions as to his legal qualifications and how he came to know and be hired by Stůj — who himself got a Kč 2.6 million bonus after serving two months in the post. (In February, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (Civic Democrats, ODS) froze a number of suspect tenders and called for a far-reaching investigation into DPP’s contracts, and appointed another DPP interim boss, Magdalena Češková, before settling on Vladimír Lich, a Czech-American businessman reputed to be a capable crisis manager.)

Prskavec’s case was not the first to have raised concerns at DPP as regards golden parachutes. At the end of 2011, seven senior managers at DPP with close links to former Dvořák received in total Kč 8.6 million in special bonuses, the Czech daily Insider reported in May, citing internal DPP accounting documents.

Of that amount, Dvořák’s right-hand man, former DPP economic director Ivo Štika, was paid Kč 2.8 million for a job well done — it was he who was instrumental in negotiating the contract that led to his boss’ undoing. Dvořák’s last official act as head of DPP before resigning in December 2011 was to cancel the multi-million crown contract he had signed off on in 2007 with the private Czech security paper mill Neograph to produce metro, tram and bus tickets.

Neograph had been receiving Kč 0.37 for each and every metro, tram and bus ticket it produced and transferring some Kč 0.17 per ticket — Kč 7 million annually — to the offshore company Cokeville Assets Inc., registered at a P.O. Box in the Virgin Islands, to which the controversial Prague lobbyist Ivo Rittig is linked.

According to the Czech anti-graft group the Endowment Fund Against Corruption (NFPK), from January 2007 to February 2008 some Kč 73 million was transferred from the account of Cokeville Assets to an account controlled by Rittig; not all of the payments could be directly linked to fulfilling the contractual relationship between Cokeville Assets and Neograph, it alleged. 

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