News Police crack down on large-scale supplier of materials for illicit drug-production
Detectives from the national anti-drugs squad have cracked down on a large scale-supplier of materials for the illicit production of drugs. The forty-one year old owner of a chain of shops selling chemical supplies was arrested at the end of July, but the police have only now revealed details of the case which is unprecedented on Czech scale. The chain of shops around the country served as a smoke screen and all contained large quantities of chemicals needed for the illegal production of crystal methamphetamine. According to a police spokesman the chemicals confiscated during the police raids could have made drugs with a street value of two and a half billion crowns.
For the daily news summary, available after 8pm CET, click here.
Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec has suggested that local councils be given more power in deciding who is issued with gun permits and their prolongation. Chovanec was speaking following Wednesday’s meeting of the lower house of parliament’s security committee which discussed the shootings in Uherský Brod last week. The minister also suggested that ways of getting the police special intervention squads faster to more distant parts of the country should be investigated. He said that probably would not mean the creation of special units in every region but more likely boosting the current units, for example by providing helicopters, so that they could get to the scene quicker, he added. A report on the options should be drawn up by the end of March. The special intervention squad had to travel from Brno to Uherský Brod, around 90 kilometres or at least an hour away by road.
Czech capital Prague has been ranked 68th in a worldwide list of the best places for the quality of life by the US consultancy Mercer. The three top placed cities were Vienna, Zurich, and Auckland, New Zealand. Prague is the top ranked city in post-communist Central Europe, although former East Germany’s Leipzig is placed 49th. Budapest and Slovenian capital Ljubljana were ranked 75, Warsaw 79th, and Bratislava 81th.
The Czech government on Wednesday for the first time discussed the Uherský Brod shooting during which a 63-year-old gunman shot dead eight people in a restaurant before taking his own life. The discussion focused on a summary of the information collected so far by the Ministry of Interior and a precise timeline of the events which took place on February 24. The ministry and police have been on the defensive following the worst attack of its kind in recent Czech history. It was later revealed that police intervention occurred hours after the shootings had taken place although some individuals who had hidden in the restaurant and nearby were still at risk. Police say they had no way of knowing how many hostages the gunman had.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka called on ministries Wednesday to publish all deals and agreements whose value is higher than 50,000 crowns. Sobotka said the government’s central office had urged the step at the start of the year but the response from ministries to toe the line has varied greatly. The prime minister’s moves come as moves to create a central registry of government agreements and deals enters a final phase. The target is for the registry to be approved during the first half of this year. Sobotka’s latest call sparked a sharp reaction from ANO leader and Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš who claimed that his ministry had called in February for others to follow its example on the format publishing details of deals. The move, as well as the register of agreements, is aimed at making the working of government more transparent and reducing the possibilities for corruption.
Prague zoo is seeking to create a small atelier for the production of paper – from elephant droppings. Inspiration for such production comes from Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, where such production is common. Prague City Council, which manages the zoo has set aside 2.5 million crowns to finance the facility. The main aim is that visitors themsleves could try to produce paper. The production proces involves boiling the elephant droppings in water, mashing them up, and finally heating them again and leaving the mash to dry in the sun.
Separately, police detained on Wednesday the former general secretary of the defence ministry, Jan Vylita, according to the news server Aktualne.CZ. The move is being connected with the police swoop on a ministry building on Tuesday in which four people were charged concerning the illegal transfer of property. Vylita’s security clearance was removed last month by Czech authorities meaning that he had to quit his job as one of main auditors at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.
The Catholic Church in the Czech Republic has said bells will be rung from churches across the country in tribute to the victims of the Uherský Brod shooting last week. The tribute will last for two minutes and 20 seconds just after midday on Thursday. The Czech government recommended the step on Wednesday. As well as bells, emergency sirens in towns and cities will also go off at noon on Thursday in memory of the victims following the cancellation of the tradition practice on the first Wednesday of each month.
The head of the top Czech ice hockey league has said that talks are going on about it expanding it to Slovak teams. League manager Josef Řezníček has said talks on the subject have been tabled for the general meeting of the association of Czech ice hockey league clubs with no final standpoint yet being taken. Talks are also progressing with the Slovak association, which would have to approve the move, he said. A positive decision could mean that the two top Slovak clubs, Slovan Bratislava and Košice could join the Czech league in the new season.
Police have recommended that criminal charges be lodged against a former minister and top Ministry of Defense official over the controversial purchase of a transport plane for the army. The special police squad for uncovering corruption and financial crime made its recommendation to Prague’s Supreme State Attorney over former TOP 09 minister of defence Vlasta Parkanová and former head of the ministry’s arms purchases division, Jiří Staněk. The case concerns the purchase of CASA transport aircraft and suspected overpayments and damages to the state amounting to around 820 million crowns. If found guilty, the former minister and official could face jail sentences of up to 10 years.
Luxury carmaker BMW has warned that it could build a logistics centre in the Czech Republic if its plans to site the new centre near Regensburg, Bavaria, are thwarted, according to the daily Die Welt. At stake are around 200 jobs that could be created at the new centre. BMW’s plans for 50 hectares of agricultural land outside the city have been complicated by a battle between a local farmer whose family has been renting the land for around 150 years and the owner, the noble Thurn-Taxis family. The farmer has refused offers of other land and a long drawn out legal battle is now looming.