News Police recommend charges ex-PM’s right hand man over dubious arms deal
The police on Friday recommended that charges of attempted fraud be raised against Marek Dalík, a former close aide to ex-prime minister Mirek Topolánek, over his role in the 2009 acquisition of armoured vehicles for the Czech army. The anti-corruption unit of the police alleges that in 2007, Mr Dalík asked an employee of the Austrian firm Steyr, which supplied the vehicles, for an 18-million euro bribe to ensure the continuation of the deal. The investigators believe Mr Dalík committed attempted fraud as he had no influence over the contract. Mirek Topolánek’s government eventually approved the purchase of 107 Pandur armoured vehicles for 14.4 billion crowns.
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A loan of 700 million crowns from the state will be offered to struggling hard coal mining company OKD, The amount and terms of the loan to ensure mining operations can continue while the future of the company is resolved has been fought over during recent weeks by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Industry and Trade. The mining company, which itself launched insolvency proceedings, has said that 1.0 billion crowns would be needed. OKD had warned that the state could be faced with massive costs if mining operations were halted.
Wages for teachers will be hiked from September by around eight percent compared with their current levels. The move should mean increases in monthly gross wages of around 2,000 to 2,400 crowns. The government had given priority to raising teachers’ wages, they are among the worst paid graduates in the country, but the remaining question was whether Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš would agree to the early increases at an estimated cost of around 2.24 billion crowns. The Cabinet Wednesday also agree to a 5.0 percent wage rise for state employees to take effect from the start of November.
The French president, Francois Hollande, has cancelled a planned visit to Prague on Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday’s brutal killing of a priest in a church near Rouen in an attack claimed by Islamic State. Mr. Hollande had been due to visit the Czech capital last week but cancelled that trip after a terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day that left 84 dead. The French leader will speak to Czech President Miloš Zeman by telephone on Wednesday, the latter’s spokesperson said. Prime Minister Sobotka later said that in a telephone call Hollande stressed that the EU's main mission should be to secure the security of its citizens,
Academics from universities in Prague, Olomouc, and Brno have signed an open letter to prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka calling for him to intervene and cancel the planned auction of the historic Invalidovna complex in the capital. The auction of the Baroque building is set to take place on August 8 with a state property body setting a minimum price of 637.7 million crowns. The academics warn that previous experience in Prague of protected historic buildings being sold and redeveloped has not been encouraging. The building was constructed from 1731 to 1737 to care for war veterans.
Brno and the surrounding South Moravian region is experiencing its biggest epidemic of Hepatitis A for the last 15 years. Since the start of the year, 107 cases have been reported according to the chief regional hygiene officer. For the whole of 2015 there were only 27 cases. Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver usually caused by poor hygiene.
Checks at the border between the Czech Republic and Germany will be stepped up, minister of interior Milan Chovanec has announced. The minister said the reason for the move was the fear that unsuccessful asylum applicants in Germany might seek to move to neighbouring countries rather than be sent back to their countries of origin. The Czech minister highlighted recent comments from some German politicians that hundreds of failed applicants will be returned. He added that Czech police already had pinpointed areas where they could try and cross the border illegally.
A court in Zlín on Wednesday threw out charges against five people from two arms firms connected with the explosion of munitions at a depot in Vrbětice in the far south east of the country. Two explosions at the site late in 2014 resulted in two deaths. Some of the accused had been facing prison sentences of up to 12 years storing illegal arms. The two companies involved in the proceedings were arms company Excalibar Army and trading company Real Trade Praha.
The Czech Cabinet on Wednesday approved changes to the country’s criminal code which better define the acts of financing and propagating terrorism and the penalties attached. The proposed changes will result in a maximum 12 year prison sentence for financing terrorism and the confiscation of all assets. A speedy passage through parliament has been urged. Separately, Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec outlined precise steps to be taken in reaction to various stages of terror alert. The moves are largely inspired from the practices in the US and Israel.
The biggest car maker in the Czech Republic, Škoda Auto, has reported a 4.6 percent rise in car deliveries in the first half of the year compared with the first six months of 2015. The total came to just over 569,000. The main reasons are strong demand in the key European and Chinese markets and good figures for the down market Fabia and up market Yeti and Superb models. Sales in June eased slightly but were still 4.4 percent higher year on year. Deliveries to China were 12 percent up on the same month a year earlier.
The Czech Republic’s biggest mineral water company, Karlovarské mineralní vody (KMV), has boosted turnover in the first half of the year by 21 percent compared with the same period in 2015. The total turnover for the six months came to 3.6 billion crowns. Operating profit climbed by 30 percent. The strong performance is due to growing demand for spring and bottled water. As well the core activities in the Czech Republic, the family owned company based on Karlovy Vary also has mineral water also operations in Hungary and Austria.