News Press: Sobotka oversaw undervalued sell-off of mining firm while finance minister

03-04-2014 09:31 | Ian Willoughby

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka oversaw the sell-off of mining firm OKD for a suspiciously low price in 2004 when he was finance minister, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Thursday. The company was sold for CZK 4.1 billion when it was actually worth more than twice as much, the newspaper said. Mr. Sobotka had the value of OKD verified by a law firm that also represented the buyer, MfD said, quoting a police file. The current prime minister had previously worked at the law firm, which is headed by his friend. When the European Commission questioned the selling price, the Finance Ministry sent a letter to Brussels asserting that it had been in order – despite having received assessments putting the value of OKD at CZK 10.3 billion. Mr. Sobotka says the letter was signed by a deputy.

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First victim of shooting incident in Uherský Brod laid to rest

02-03-2015 17:21 | Ruth Fraňková

The first victim of last week’s shooting incident in Eastern Moravia was put to rest on Monday after a funeral attended by family, friends and local inhabitants. The 43-year-old waitress was one of the eight people killed last Tuesday in a random attack in a pub in the town of Uherský Brod. The 64-year-old shooter, who was apparently mentally instable, subsequently turned the gun on himself. The other seven victims, all of them men, will be laid to rest in the coming days. 

Child custody case to be debated in Norway on Tuesday

02-03-2015 16:24 | Ruth Fraňková

Zdeněk Kapitán, the head of the Brno-based International Office for the Legal Protection of Children, is set to go to Norway on Tuesday to discuss the situation of two Czech children removed from the family by Norwegian social services with local authorities. The children were taken away in 2011on suspicion of sexual abuse; a year later, they were placed in foster families despite the fact that a police investigation found no evidence of abuse. Mr Kapitán is set to meet with the representatives of Norwegian social services as well as with the lawyers of the boys’ mother, who last year filed a lawsuit against the decision of the social services. 

Czech President addresses AIPAC forum in Washington

02-03-2015 16:23 updated | Daniela Lazarová

Czech President Miloš Zeman on Monday addressed the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) forum in Washington, receiving a standing ovation. The Czech president condemned the growing Islamic terrorism and said that the first step to fight it was expressing solidarity. Mr Zeman appealed for a coordinated action of the international community, shielded by UN Security Council. During his stay in Washington President Zeman is scheduled to pay tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack at the Pentagon memorial and lay a wreath at the statue of first Czechoslovak President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. No talks with US top officials have been planned. 

Czech fugitive criminal arrested in Dominican Republic

02-03-2015 15:21 | Ruth Fraňková

Police in the Dominican Republic, in cooperation with Czech investigators, last year arrested a Czech fugitive criminal, spokesman for the police presidium David Schön said on Monday. The 64-year-old Viliam Nikoden, wanted on an international arrest warrant since 2009, was apprehended near the town of Monte Cristi, north of the Dominican-Haitian border. The man, who was sentenced in absentia for serious economic crimes, has already started to serve his sentence in a Czech prison. The Dominican Republic has become a popular destination for Czech criminals in recent years. Another Czech fugitive, who had been on the run for two years, was arrested in the country at the end of January. 

Polish daily: Czech firms export weapons despite embargo

02-03-2015 14:19 | Ruth Fraňková

Several Czech firms are exporting weapons to Russia despite the embargo imposed by the EU and the US in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita reported on Monday. Its journalists claim that the US Bushmaster and German Heckler-Koch rifles, which are officially designated for hunters and exported to Russia, could end up in the hands of pro-Russian separatists. Jan Jindřich of the government’s weapons export licensing department told the daily that the Czech side has guarantees that the weapons are for private use and do not end up in the hands of military or para-military units. The article also quoted an EU representative who pointed out that the embargo did not apply to contracts signed before August 2014. 

Publishers of Hitler speeches demand financial compensation from state

02-03-2015 12:37 | Ruth Fraňková

The publishers of Adolf Hitler’s speeches who were prosecuted, but not convicted, of propagating Nazism are demanding over seven million crowns in compensation from the state. An editor and two co-owners of a Brno-based publishing house were cleared of charges in January, after the court issued a verdict that found no evidence that the collection of Hitler’s speeches promoted the Nazi ideology. The book, which was released in 2012, consists of 18 addresses delivered by the Nazi dictator between 1939 and 1942. 

Žďár school attacker released from custody

02-03-2015 11:50 | Ruth Fraňková

The woman, who stabbed to death a 16-year-old student at a secondary school in Žďár nad Sázavou in the Vysočina region last year, was released from custody on Monday on the grounds of temporary insanity. The attacker, who suffers from schizophrenia, was moved to a mental hospital, police spokeswoman Ludmila Čírtková told the Czech News Agency. The 26-year-old woman entered a local secondary school armed with a long knife and attacked students at random killing one person and injuring three others. The woman had attacked a child in the past and had been released from a mental hospital on the basis of a single expert opinion. 

Opening of Blanka tunnel delayed by months due to damaged electric cables

02-03-2015 11:43 | Ruth Fraňková

The opening of the controversial Blanka tunnel complex in Prague, which was scheduled for April, will be delayed till next year, reported on Monday. Hundreds of kilometres of electric cables, which were damaged by heavy rainfall last year and by dampness within the tunnel, will have to be replaced. The tunnel, which has been under construction since 2007, was originally scheduled to open in 2011 but has been hit by many delays, with the latest deadline set for April of this year. It has come under criticism for massive costs overruns which have cost Prague nearly 37 billion crowns. 

Czech cross country skier Lukáš Bauer takes silver in Nordic skiing world championships

02-03-2015 08:42 | Daniela Lazarová

Czech cross country skier Lukáš Bauer took the silver medal at the Nordic skiing world championships in Falun, Sweden on Sunday. First place went to Norway’s Petter Northug. Thirty-seven-year-old Bauer for whom this may be the last big race in his career said he was overjoyed by the victory. The only other Czech in the running Martin Jakš placed sixteenth. 

Sudeten German Landsmannschaft will no longer strive for return of property

01-03-2015 18:45 | Daniela Lazarová

The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, an organization representing the interests of Sudeten Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II, on the grounds of the so-called Benes decrees, will no longer strive for the return of property to the expellees and their descendants, according to a statement the organization released to the press on Sunday. At a weekend conference the SL amended its statutes, dropping the passage stating it would fight for the return of confiscated Sudeten German property and replacing it with a commitment to strive for a European arrangement where basic human rights, including the right to a homeland and self-determination would be fully respected. The organization says it will strive for the Charter of Fundamental Rights to be valid across the EU. Former Czech president Vaclav Klaus demanded an exemption from the charter for his country on the grounds that it could open the door to a wave of Sudeten German property claims, but the present centre-left government said last year it no longer wanted the opt-out. The possibility of Sudeten German restitutions have been a major issue of contention between the two countries. 



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