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When Visiting Czech Republic, Take in 'Corruption Tour'

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If Disneyland (DIS) is the happiest place on Earth, the Czech Republic may be in the running for most cynical. In a country where political and corporate corruption run rampant, a new tour operator in the capital city has taken an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tack -- or, at least, make a profit off ‘em.

The CorruptTour outfit, that launched last month in Prague, has packaged its homeland’s cronyism into two separate three-hour bus trips. Aping a Hollywood stars’ homes tour, CorruptTour guides take participants past the chic residences of crooked business leaders and lobbyists but also to other “monuments of corruption” like fraud-fraught hospitals, a pointless and pricey funicular in the northern city of Usti nad Labem, and Prague’s own City Hall.

Another tour highlight is the empty European Union-subsidized municipal park housing an invisible Olympic stadium after the city failed to make the shortlist of candidate cities in 2008 and then cancelled its bid to host the games because of the global financial crisis the following year.  

“At CorruptTour,” the website says with a heavy ironic wink, “we pride ourselves on providing the most comprehensive range of corruption experiences.”

On its face, the funny gimmick behind CorruptTour doesn’t necessarily seem like it would translate into a legitimate, sustainable business. But travelers to the Czech Republic are apparently hungry for lengthy excursions to sites associated with public spending scandals and shady corporate dealings.

“The idea was to reverse the usual situation wherein corruption feeds on business by creating a business that uses corruption as input” by exposing it, says CorruptTour's 37-year-old founder Petr Sourek, a philosopher and translator.

The Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perception Index ranked the Czech Republic 57th out of 183 countries, alongside Namibia and Saudi Arabia. According to David Ondracka, head of the international graft watchdog's Czech branch, “the trend is getting worse.”

Fortunately for CorruptTour, more corruption at least means better business.
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