News Special tax-evasion unit uncovers 270 million fraud
A special tax-evasion unit set up by the Czech Finance Ministry, has uncovered fraud worth 270 million crowns, the head of the Czech Tax Administration, Jiří Žežulka told reporters. Four men have been charged with tax evasion in the case; the men allegedly carried out fictitious sales of technology to offshore firms, and then applied for VAT reimbursement. The alleged fraud is the first case uncovered by the special unit, dubbed Kobra which was set up earlier this year and includes experts from the tax and customs administration and the police.
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Saturday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius.
Rectors and students from universities around the country assembled at the statue of T.G. Masaryk on Hradčany Square on Friday to mark the 98th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia and pay their respects to the country’s first president. The Czech Association of Rectors has said its members would not be attending the official celebrations at Prague Castle on Friday evening in protest against President Zeman’s policies. Representatives of student organizations expressed support for the decision. The ceremony was also attended by the president of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Jiří Drahoš, who said the academic world must stick together and confirmed that academics would also stay away from the event. Many students and academics are expected to take part in the alternate celebrations which are to be held on Old Town Square.
Commercial TV broadcaster Prima screened the original version of Jan Kraus’ talk show on Thursday evening following accusations of censorship. The program, which was originally scheduled to go out on Wednesday night, was pulled by managers who cited fears of a possible fine from the state-appointed radio and television watchdog for breaking the set standards of objectivity. The argument was later brushed off by the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting which said it had ruled earlier that entertainment programs featuring subjective views of guests did not keep to the highest standards of objectivity and balance that might be demanded elsewhere. This particular episode of the Kraus show contained many critical references to the head of state, President Miloš Zeman.
Big stores and supermarkets have been forced to close their doors on the public holiday for the first time this year due to a new law according to which outlets bigger than 200 square meters must remain closed on all big public holidays. According to a poll conducted by the Median agency 65 percent of Czechs do not have a problem with this. The new law means that big stores will no longer be able to serve customers on New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, May 8, September 28, October 28, December 25 or December 26. On December 24 – on the eve of which Czechs traditionally celebrate Christmas – large retailers will have to shut at noon.
People around the country are marking Czechoslovak Independence Day, the founding of an independent state of Czechs and Slovaks in 1918. Official celebrations of the anniversary in Prague are scheduled to take place throughout the day; politicians, cultural figures and members of the public are laying wreaths at the statue of T. G Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s first president on Hradčany Square, President Zeman, political leaders, war veterans and cultural figures are taking part in the traditional ceremony at Vítkov National Memorial and shortly after midday the president is expected to appoint new generals at Prague Castle. This year the celebrations are taking place in a tense political atmosphere due to a scandal surrounding the state awards which are traditionally presented on the day. Allegations that Holocaust survivor George Brady had been crossed off the list on nominees because his nephew, Culture Minister Daniel Herman had angered the president by meeting with the Dalai Lama, has evoked outrage and many politicians will not be attending the traditional award giving ceremony at Prague Castle. An alternate event, to be attended by politicians, academics, cultural figures and religious leaders critical of president Zeman, is to take place on Old Town Square.
The Czech state appointed radio and tv watchdog, the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting, bluntly brushed off claims from commercial broadcaster Prima that it did not originally screen the episode of Jan Kraus’s talk show featuring George Brady and culture minister Daniel Herman because of fears how the council would react. Managers at the broadcaster already knew that the council had ruled that entertainment programmes featuring subjective views of guests did not keep to the highest standards of objectivity and balance that might be demanded elsewhere, the council said in a statement late Thursday. Prima was trying to shift blame for its decision and put it on the regulator if it tried to maintain that it was not aware of this, it added. The episode of the show reportedly contained many critical references to Czech head of state, president Miloš Zeman, and his staff.
Miners’ unions at the struggling hard coal mining company OKD have given notice of the possibility of strike action. The move is aimed at highlighting anger that management is allegedly undermining existing agreements and a social agreement, under which miners leaving work would be entitled to 12 months’ pay, for the Paskov mine. No date has been set for specific action. The Paskov mine is at high risk of closure under a reorganisation plan which management is set to finalize at the start of November. The company management has been reported to be seeking a further 600 million crowns in aid from the government to cover its social commitments to workers. Industry minister Jan Mládek said the mining company should come out officially if it needs new financing.
The scandal around the alleged withdrawal of a state honour to Holocaust survivor George Brady has taken a new turn with news that an episode of the popular talk show Jan Kraus on commercial broadcaster Prima failed to be screened. The episode, recorded on Tuesday, was supposed to go out on Wednesday night. Prima said that was not possible because the copy of the recording arrived late. An earlier episode was repeated instead. The station’s version was challenged by the show’s producer, who said it was delivered as usual and in time. Other guests on the show, such as musician Anna K, have complained of media censorship. Brady, the uncle of culture minister Daniel Herman, has been in the spotlight the last week in a scandal focused on whether the president’s office first offered him a state award and then warned it would be withdrawn if the minister met with Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Prima later said the episode would be screened on Thursday. Jan Kraus, known for his outspoken comments and stand against corruption, said that screening of an edited version of the show by Prima broke its contract with him. He said the orignal version would be put out on the web. Jan Kraus is known for his outspoken comments and stand against corruption.
Italian scholar, writer, and essayist Claudio Magris will be awarded this year’s Franz Kafka prize in Prague on Thursday. Born in Trieste in 1939, Magris is known for his focus on Central Europe and German. His most famous book, Danube, followed the course of the river through the region. Magris’ work first appeared in Czech in 1992. He will be the 16th winner of the Franz Kafka award, which seeks to give recognition to writers who have followed in the literary path of the celebrated Czech 20th century writer.
So-called Public Private Partnership Projects (PPP) could be used in the future to finance high speed rail connections in the Czech Republic, the director of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure, Zbyněk Hořelica. He was speaking at a transport conference in Prague. The fund is current carrying out technical surveys on possible routes with planning permission for construction possible after 2030. The search for new sources of financing stems from the fact that most EU funding for transport initiatives will dry up after 2023. Priority routes for high speed routes are likely to be to Germany via Ústi nad Labem and Dresden, to Munich via Plzeň, and to Vienna and Bratislava from Brno. PPP projects, in which a private investor builds the infrastructure and then, often, charges for it, have often been mooted as a means for building transport infrastructure while deferring the up front costs.