The old saying goes that sunlight is the best disinfectant when it comes to corruption…well the next logical step would be a tour surely?
Like many of his law-abiding compatriots, Petr Sourek resents how corruption rewards cheating and is a drag on economic growth. But unlike others he decided to try and profit—legally—from the Czech Republic’s sleazy intersection of business and politics.
In 2011 he created Corrupt Tour, a company that offers a series of sightseeing tours that highlight, and mock, some of Prague’s most outrageous corruption scandals in the post-communist era.
“We wanted to reverse the usual order of things,” he says. “Corruption basically feeds on business so we decided to start a business that feeds on corruption.”
The 38-year-old Sourek studied philosophy and the classics (Latin and Greek) at university. Something of a dabbler, he ticks off a litany of work—freelance writer, lecturer, translator and art director among them.
Rather than a straight-forward (and depressing) recitation of crimes, alleged crimes and tallies of stolen public funds—all of which have been previously reported in the local media—Sourek created various themes for his different tours in order to bring some levity to the presentations. One tour takes visitors to the palatial villas of well-connected businessmen at the center of recent scandals—and then to the plain, simple homes these businessmen lived in before forming their connections. (Despite a seemingly endless parade of corruption scandals since the fall of communism 24 years ago, almost no one has been convicted of a crime.) Another tour takes visitors to construction sites where taxpayers’ money seems to vanish into air; or, in the case of the Blanka Tunnel, underground. The sprawling tunnel—well over three miles long—was supposed to be finished last year at a cost of 26 billion crowns ($1.3 billion). But the project is $500 million over budget, and, recently, ground to a halt by a new city government that is balking at paying the cost overruns. Police are now investigating whether the whole contract should be declared invalid. Yet another tour highlights allegations of corruption and graft said to permeate Prague’s hospitals.
The Czech Republic ranked 54 out of 176 nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2012, with nearly 90 percent of adults viewing corruption as “problem number one” according to Radim Bures, an analyst at Transparency International, citing poll results. The ranking leaves the Czechs far behind most of western Europe, and even Eastern European neighbors such as Estonia, Poland and Hungary. Experts estimate that corruption costs the Czech economy 100 billion crowns ($5 billion) per year—a considerable sum for a country of 10.5 million people.
Maybe I could set one up that starts at Auckland Town Hall…and ends up in Wellington on the streets of parliament.