The German automaker Volkswagen has hired two independent ombudsmen charged with rooting out corruption. The move is seen as a direct response to a fraud and bribery scandal last year involving a high-ranking official at Volkswagen's Czech daughter company, Skoda Auto. The official, a German high flyer who was seconded to Skoda as director of labour affairs, along with a senior personnel manager in Wolfsburg, were alleged to have set up fake companies in the Czech Republic, India and elsewhere to defraud local authorities seeking business with Volkswagen.
Final talks with the South Korean automaker Hyundai over the location of its new car plant should be completed on Thursday. A Hyundai delegation arrived in the Czech Republic at the weekend. Baring last-minute surprises, the carmaker is expected to build its new 1.2 billion dollar plant in Ostrava. The main topic of discussion is what investment incentives the Czech government is willing to extend to parts suppliers for Hyundai. The Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, Milan Urban, has said the deal could be officially sealed by mid February.
Severe cold caused a failure at the Temelin nuclear power plant Sunday night, forcing the plant to partly disconnect from the electricity grid for five hours. The temperature at Temelin, in southern Bohemia, fell to around minus 20 degrees Celsius, and the cold affected a sensor that automatically triggered a power reduction, a Temelin spokesman said. Temperatures reached minus 30 degrees elsewhere in the Czech Republic and the cold was blamed for the death of two homeless men.
In women's tennis, the Czech star Nicole Vadisova failed to make the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday. Third seed Amelie Mauresmo of France soundly beat Vadisova 6-1 6-1 in just 52 minutes. Czechoslovak-born Martina Hingis of Switzerland, a three-times champion of the open, has reached the quarter-finals and will next take on Kim Clijsters of Belgium.
The Czech national rail operator Ceske drahy has said it would ask Italy's Alstom for nearly 700,000 US dollars in compensation for having delivered faulty high-speed trains. At present, only one of the seven Pendolino trains supplied by the Italian company is in operation. Four were taken out of service due to technical problems and a fifth is undergoing testing.
The fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir is said to have commissioned a false bill of exchange in order to discredit the ruling Social Democrats. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan told the commercial TV station Nova that he had information that Krejcir commissioned several of his accomplices in the Czech Republic with the task of producing a false bill of exchange, which was to serve as proof that the billionaire had lent the ruling Social Democrats 60 million crowns for their election campaign. The mentioned accomplices were reportedly arrested before they could comply with the demand. Krejcir, who fled to the Seychelles last summer, has not so far been able to provide any evidence to support his claim.
The South Korean car maker Hyundai has confirmed a major investment in the Czech Republic. According to the Czech internet daily Novinky, Hyuandai said in a letter to the Turkish industry minister, that it had decided to build its new car plant in Nosovice, north Moravia, mainly thanks to the lower tax burden. A Hyuindai spokesman later confirmed that the firm was sending a delegation to the Czech Republic to sign a contract worth 30 to 40 billion crowns. The new plant is expected to decrease unemployment in the region. Scheduled to begin operation in 2008 the plant will employ some 3,000 people and provide more jobs for people in supplier companies.
The freezing cold weather has claimed another victim in the Czech Republic. A fifty year old homeless man was found dead under one of Prague's bridges, where he reportedly fell into a fire he made in an attempt to keep warm during the night. Police say the man most likely consumed some alcohol and fell into a deep sleep in front of the fire. The cold weather this winter has already claimed ten lives.
The concentration of cyanide in the river Labe has dropped below the permissible limit of 10 micrograms per litre. Experts from the river administration say that the present levels no longer present a threat to fish or river life. The concentration of cyanide is gradually declining due to the higher inflow of water from the Vltava river and the fact that river management has been increasing the flow from several reservoirs. The cyanide leak into the Labe from a chemical plant in central Bohemia on January 9th killed many tons of fish in the river and caused concern in neighbouring Germany where the Labe /Elbe/ river flows. Environmentalists say that the full extent of damage to river life will only become apparent in the spring. The chemical plant responsible faces a fine of up to 10 million crowns.
Finland and Spain have indicated they may open their labour markets to the new EU members before the end of this year. The Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, who attended a meeting with his EU counterparts in the Austrian town of Villach on Friday said that although no decision had been reached the diplomatic signals from Madrid and Helsinki were encouraging. Germany and Austria, on the other hand, have made it clear that they will extend the labour market restrictions by another three years.