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21-05-2014 17:41 | Chris Johnstone

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Life sentences handed down to methanol poisoning masterminds

A Czech court has handed down life sentences to two mean accused of being the ringleaders of the methanol scandal which cost the lives of more than 50 people. The regional court in Zlín handed down the sentences to Tomáš Krepela and Rudolf Fian, who were accused of masterminding the mixing hard spirits with deadly methanol in a concoction which started to kill from September 2012 onwards. Slovaks and Poles as well as Czechs numbered amongst the victims. A third man who acted as distributor, Jiří Vacul, was given a 15 year sentence. Lighter punishments were given to another seven co-defendants.

Industry minister calls for resignation of head of state export bank

Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jan Mládek has called on the head of the state bank for promoting exports to immediately resign. Mládek said in news release Wednesday that the head of the Czech Export Bank, Jiří Klumpar, had overstepped his managerial competences. The minister added in a news release Wednesday that instead of getting to grips with problems at the bank, Klumpar had proposed that a new bank be created out of part of the existing institution without consulting anyone else about such a move. Mládek said he should resign before the bank’s supervisory board kicked him out. The export bank has been investigated by police in connected with suspect loans made in particular to Russian companies.

State fund seeks criminal probe of delayed fantasy film

The Czech state fund aimed at encouraging filmmaking in the country has decided to launch criminal proceedings against one of the most expensive projects it has supported. The fund, on the back of expert analysis, has suspicions that fraud could have played a role in funding for the more than 200 million crown Czech fantasy film ‘Last from Aporver.’ The state fund put forward 47 million crowns to support the film. It was supposed to have been completed in 2011 but that date has been put back four times with no clear indication when it might be screened in cinemas.

Czech president sees business opportunities in Romania

Czech president Miloš Zeman has said on a visit to Romania that Czech firms could play a major role in building the country’s transport and energy infrastructure and new power production capacity. Turning to foreign relations, Zeman said that Romania feared for the future of the former Soviet state, Moldova. Fears were based not just on the possibility of invasion but also the fact that the country had not built up sufficient independent energy capacity and links to the European Union. The Czech head of state is due to visit Moldova on Thursday and Friday.

Government grants exemptions to teaching qualification demands

The government of Wednesday agreed to specific exceptions allowing teachers without specific qualifications to continue with their career. The exceptions regard teachers older than 55 years who have 20 years of experience or who teach specialized subjects on a less than full time basis. Without the exceptions thousands of teachers would have had to quit the profession with serious disruption threatened in some regions. An estimated 11,000 teachers do not have the university level teaching qualifications required by law. The exemptions are believed to cover around three quarters of that total.

Finance minister seen backing down on tax battle with coalition partner

Finance minister Andrej Babiš has backtracked on proposed moves to clamp down on the tax breaks offered to the self-employed. Public broadcaster Czech Television said the minister was no longer insisting on changes ahead of a meeting of leaders of coalition parties on Wednesday. The smallest party in the government, the Christian Democrats said they were totally opposed to Babiš’ proposed changes but they received support from the left-of-centre Social Democrats. The main change advanced was the abolition of tax breaks for those who opted to automatically write off tax on 60 percent of their earnings.

Czechs have no need to fear gas shortage despite Ukraine crisis, says Sobotka

The Czech Republic has gas reserves to last 100 days and neither households nor firms need fear a shortage, says Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. He made the comment after a meeting of the State Security Council called to discuss a possible halting of Russian gas supplies through Ukraine due to the crisis in the latter country. Mr. Sobotka said the Czech Republic could help Slovakia by supplying it with Russian gas from the Baltic Nord Stream pipeline. Prague is not in favour of a Polish proposal for EU states to buy gas and oil from Russia together, a suggestion reportedly aimed at reducing Moscow’s ability to “blackmail” individual states reliant on it for power.

Czech Television sends hockey championship erection adverts to sin bin

Czech television has announced that it will ban adverts for erection pills for the remainder of the world ice hockey championships, according to new server novinky.cz. The head of the public broadcaster Petr Dvorák told the broadcaster’s supervisory council that the move had been sparked by protests from viewers over the vulgar content of the ads and the likelihood that children were watching matches ahead of 10 pm. The final Czech group match with France on Tuesday evening was watched an average by 1.3 million viewers with even more expected for the semi-final clash with the United States.

Czechs beat France at Worlds to set up clash with USA in quarter-finals

The Czech Republic beat France at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus on Tuesday evening. The Czechs, who have not been performing well in the tournament, were 3:0 down at the end of the first period but fought back to make it 3:3 and force overtime, in which they won the game 4:3 on penalties. The Czechs finished third in their group and will face the USA in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

Suspected Czech egg smuggler stopped at Sydney airport

A Czech has been stopped at Australia’s Sydney airport on suspicion of trying to illegally smuggle bird eggs into the country. The 39-year-old was checked by customs officers after he arrived on a flight from Dubai and was found to be hiding 16 small eggs in his underpants. He is expected to appear in court. The maximum penalty for smuggling eggs of endangered species is 10 years in prison.

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