Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hagibor restitution mess

So there’s an article in Mlada fronta Dnes that was stuck in some Saturday edition a couple weeks back that mentions a certain restitution case that’s going to be decided by Prague’s land fund  soon involving no less than 50 ha of land in Prague 10 – Hagibor. For those who don’t know Prague inside out, that’s not out in the fields somewhere…that’s four metro stops from Wenceslas Square. To say this looks a can of worms is an understatement, though we doubt, — we seriously doubt — that the full picture is being presented in the article. The paper claims that the land stretches from the Don Giovanni hotel, through the Na Vinici and Solidarita housing estates to Malešice. Where the paper gets the value of the land in question isn’t stated, but it gives an estimate of CZK 2.5bn.

This has come to light now, apparently, in connection with efforts by Vinohradska Development  to build on land it bought in part from TJ Bohemians. But wait, there’s more. The original restitution claim was made back in 1991, but it wasn’t “re-discovered” until this year. Coincidentally, this happened just as the owner was allegedly close to signing an agreement with a “foreign investor”. Vinohradska Development says that it naturally investigated the title to the land extremely carefully, but it only found out about the claim from the land fund in May this year, four years after purchasing it.

It’s a strange case indeed, and we’d welcome ideas/tips from readers as to what’s going on here. Not least because several land restitution cases were solved years ago when the city of Prague was trying to clear the way for the city’s national hockey stadium to be built in that area. “We even have an opinion from the land office that that the land isn’t encumbered by any restitution claims. It’s incomprehensible that restitution claims from 1990 and 1991 turn up and the office starts to deal with them in 2012,” MfD quotes VD’s lawyer Jiri Golda as saying. The file apparently was placed in the Ministry of Finance’s archives, something a ministry official said was because the restituents did not pursue their claim actively, despite being requested to do so.

Clearly something strange and contorted is playing out here, and it suggests multiple scenarios for conspiracy lovers. Exactly why the paper mentions that the claimant’s lawyer is a friend of the ex-boss of Sazka (which eventually built the country’s hockey stadium elsewhere) is particularly confusing. But no doubt the story will develop in the weeks to come.

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Thai tourists living large

A couple of recent studies make for interesting reading (this from Hospodarske noviny), if you’re interested in the tourist sector. Foreign tourists used to come to the Czech Republic to fill their shopping bags with crystal, but those days are over. Where as in 2006, crystal made up 23%of all good bought by visitors, that figure has now fallen below 10%.

Instead, the interest in fashion has taken of, rising to more than 65%. “Foreigners have worked out that it if they get the VAT back, it pays to buy the luxury brands,” says Jiri Macas, director of Global Blue, which arranges VAT refunds.

Russians are the biggest buyers, in terms of volume (around CZK 20bn), but that’s primarily because they’re the biggest group of tourists. Contrary to popular belief, though, they’re not the biggest spenders, coughing up CZK 6,600 on an average visit. Thais, on the other hand, spend nearly CZK 16,000. Who knew?