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Czech Cab Driver Overcharges Mayor

January 15, 2005

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ At least Prague’s overcharging taxi drivers don’t discriminate. Just ask the mayor.

Mayor Pavel Bem promised on Friday to intensify crackdowns on the city’s greedy cabbies after getting his own tourist experience: a two-mile ride and a $34 bill.

Wearing dark glasses, a fake goatee and a mustache and posing as a tourist, Bem got a cab on Thursday that took him from the Old Town Square to the Prague Castle _ two major attractions for several million tourists visiting Prague every year.

When he asked for a receipt for his overpriced trip, he got one with a fake taxi firm and a fake telephone number on it. The mayor’s trip was in cooperation with journalists from the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily.

``This is such a fundamental and flagrant violation of the rules that the driver deserves the most severe punishment,″ the mayor said in Friday’s edition of the newspaper.

Police officials and legislators have so far been unable to tame the Prague cabbies, but Bem claimed Friday the situation was improving, with 20 percent of taxi drivers who were checked in 2004 found to be cheating, compared with 40 percent two years earlier.

And that driver who overcharged the mayor? He faces a fine of up to $54,440.

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