News Czech government wants to join criminal prosecution in Promopro case
The Czech government wants to join the criminal prosecution in the ongoing case involving the company Promopro which won a controversial public order for the supply of audio-visual equipment during the Czech EU presidency in 2009. The state is claiming 338 million crowns in damages, the amount by which the order was allegedly overpriced. The suspects have been charged with scheming in a public tender and auction, abuse of power and breach of trust. Alexander Vondra, who was responsible for the preparation of the Czech EU presidency and who was defence minister in 2010-2012, has not been charged.
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A mother and daughter who died under mysterious circumstances while vacationing in Egypt last year, may have died from electric shock, news website iDnes reports, citing an anonymous source. Earlier, there was speculation the two, aged 36 and eight, had been poisoned; the husband and father, Petr Kramný, is charged with their murder and has been remanded in custody. He has denied guilt and filed a complaint with Ostravá’s regional court challenging his detention.
The unemployment rate in February remained unchanged from January’s 8.6 percent while the number of job seekers dropped by 0.6 percent to roughly 625,000; the amount of job vacancies, however, grew, the Czech Employment Office said. February often sees high unemployment figures, but the office said this year’s mild winter had had a positive effect. The unemployment figure is expected to drop in the coming months due to seasonal jobs.
The regional court in Ostrava handed stiff sentences on Monday to three men who robbed and murdered an older couple from Bohumín in the Karviná area last year: 27 years in prison, 30, and life behind bars. At least one of the three, heavily in debt, knew the victims, who were shot and killed in a garage and buried in a pre-dug grave on the spot. The men had staked out the couple from among a number of potential targets; crucial in their decision was that they believed the couple had cash hidden in their home instead of in the bank. The perpetrators made off with 230,000 crowns but had ‘hoped’ for up to five million. All three will be held in maximum security prisons.
Fashion designer Monika Drápalová has won the main prize of Grand Design 2013 awarded by the the Academy of Design of the Czech Republic. This is the first time in the event’s seven year history that the main prize has gone to a fashion designer. Drápalová impressed the jury with her collection The Free Circle for Rose and Mary Fashion. The Grand Design awards annually draw attention to exceptional achievements in the field of design and enhance public awareness of new trends in the field of Czech design. The awards are given in the categories: Designer of the Year, Fashion Designer of the Year, Designer of the Jewel of the Year, Graphic Designer of the Year, Photographer of the Year, Store of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year and Discovery of the Year.
Hundreds of town halls, schools and institutions around the Czech Republic are expected to join the Flag for Tibet initiative expressing support for Tibetan independence. The Flag for Tibet initiative traditionally takes place on March 10th marking the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising in Lhasa which was brutally suppressed by the Chinese regime. The event is traditionally accompanied by lectures, film screenings and exhibitions documenting Tibetan history and culture.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the Czech Republic was unlikely to recognize the outcome of a Crimean referendum on joining Russia, since such a vote was in violation of Ukrainian law. Speaking on Czech public television on Sunday, Mr. Sobotka said the Czech Republic recognized the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian leadership and supported its efforts to enter into negotiations with Russia on resolving the conflict. The Czech government has come out strongly in support of a diplomatic solution to the conflict, saying economic sanctions would hurt all parties involved.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he was unperturbed by claims that a document in the archives of the Czech communist secret police contains details of a meeting between members of the then secret police and Andrej Babiš, who now holds the finance ministry portfolio. Details of the document in which Mr. Babiš talks about bribery in the firm Petrimex, are to be published in Monday’s edition of Euro magazine. Mr. Sobotka said none of the information was new or surprising and that Mr. Babiš had repeatedly explained that a foreign trade employee under the communist regime he had been unable to avoid questioning by the secret service. He has rejected the idea that he actively collaborated with the communist secret service as an agent and is trying to clear his name in court in neighbouring Slovakia where he appeared on a list of communist police collaborators.
The governor of the central bank, Miroslav Singer, said the bank board was debating when best to curtail the forex interventions launched last November to weaken the crown in order to avoid deflation. Mr. Singer said that the economic figures released in the first two months of this year were proof that the decision had been the right one and that the move had no stiffled economic growth. He said he expected a very mild strengthening of the crown once the interventions were concluded and noted that the board would not risk a premature decision to end the interventions and face the same problem. The central bank’s decision has come under fire from many politicians and analysts who said that weakening the crown was not a good decision at a time when the country was coming out of a drawn-out crisis.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the Višegrad Group’s appeal to the United States to boost natural gas exports to Europe was part of the Czech government’s long-term goal to improve the country’s energy security and lower its dependence on oil and gas supplies from Russia. The Czech prime minister said during EU talks in Brussels that the development in Ukraine had emphasized the need to improve energy security in Europe, noting that the EU would be in a better position to respond to the Crimean crisis were it not dependent on Russian oil and gas. The ambassadors of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary on Friday asked the US to boost natural gas exports to Europe as a hedge against the possibility that Russia could cut off its supply of gas to Ukraine.
A concert at Prague’s Rudolfinum on Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of the biggest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens during WWII. On the night of March 8, close to 3,800 prisoners from Terezín – men, women and children were transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and gassed. The commemorative concert included the works of Jewish composers who were murdered at Auschwitz. The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra performed them under conductor Libor Pešek and in cooperation with the pianist Martin Kasík, violinist Pavel Šporcl, members of the Disman Radio Children’s Choir, Czech Radio Children´s Choir and Prague Philharmonic Choir.