The Supreme Public Prosecutor Renata Vesecká has reopened an investigation into a case of alleged corruption in the purchase of Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets planned by the Social Democrat government back in 2002. The government in power then approved the purchase of 24 jets from BAE systems/SAAB for 60.2 billion crowns but the deal did not get the necessary backing in Parliament, and was eventually replaced by a later contract, in which the Czech Republic leased 14 jets for 20 billion crowns for ten years. A police investigation into the original deal was twice shelved but a review ordered by the supreme state attorney in December reportedly found the decision to shelve the case was unlawful and premature. According to a spokeswoman for the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, the evidence compiled so far has not sufficiently ruled out corruption in the case.
President Václav Klaus has accepted Environment Minister Jan Dusík’s resignation from the government, following developments on Thursday regarding the future of Czech energy giant ČEZ’s coal-burning power plant in Pruneřov. The environment minister decided to step down after Prime Minister Jan Fischer told him to allow the producer to go ahead with the project, despite findings in an environment impact assessment study at the ministry that showed ČEZ was not going to use the best available technology. Mr Dusík was nominated to the caretaker government by the Green Party and on Friday its leader Ondřej Liška made clear the Greens still feel responsible for work conducted by the ministry. A meeting between the Greens’ chairman and the prime minister is being planned.
The foreign minister, Jan Kohout, has told the Czech weekly Respekt that the Czech ambassador to the EU, Milena Vicenová, will be recalled from her post. The weekly published the information on its website on Friday. In the interview, Mr Kohout confirmed the move was part of a number of changes in Czech ambassadorial posts abroad. Earlier, it was speculated that Mrs Vicenová could be succeeded by the Czech ambassador to Greece. Foreign Minister Kohout, meanwhile, is due to meet with Mrs Vicenová on Monday to discuss possible moves; he said that he was expecting her to stay on in Czech diplomacy if she wants to do so.
The Czech Republic has one of the highest rates of swine flu mortality in the EU, according to a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Since October the country has seen 102 deaths in which swine flu was a factor. So far more than 65,000 people have been inoculated, and roughly 30% of the available vaccine has been used. The head of the Czech Immunology Society Roman Prymula said that one of the reasons for the higher-than-average death rate was the fact that Czech authorities have been particularly astute in determining whether the H1N1 virus was a contributing factor in cases. Other countries, such as Sweden, meanwhile, have suffered higher infection rates than the Czech Republic but seen a lower number of swine flu deaths due to more widespread vaccination.
A fire on Thursday evening destroyed a small cottage in the east of the country belonging to the family of one the suspects in the Vítkov firebombing case. The blaze began shortly after one am and took fire fighters roughly an hour to put out. No one was hurt in the incident; the damage has been estimated at 250 thousand crowns. News website Novinky quoted the mother of suspect Václav Cojocar - one of four people charged with last year’s attack in Vítkov – as saying the fire was retaliation for her son. He and three others have been charged with racially-motivated attempted murder, suspected of having thrown Molotov cocktails into a Romany family home in Vítkov that left a two-year-old girl with severe burns and possibly lifelong trauma. Officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire at the family cottage.
The regional court in the South Bohemian town of České Budějovice has overturned a decision by the town hall in Tábor to ban a pre-election meeting of right-wing extremists planned in the town in April. Supporters of the far right Workers’ Party for Social Justice (a group building on the earlier Workers’ Party which was been permanently banned in the Czech Republic) are aiming to gather for a so-called pre-election meeting on April 17; between 100 to 300 supporters are expected. The regional court made clear on Friday that if the town hall wanted to apply a ban it needed evidence for its decision.
A 37-year-old Czech man died in Marseille, France, on Thursday, after being shot several times, the AFP news agency has reported. The man, who was not identified, was brought to hospital alive but failed to regain consciousness before succumbing to his wounds. French investigators have suggested that the killing was an underworld settling of accounts. The police will search the apartment of one of two Armenian nationals who brought the Czech to hospital, but failed to give a proper account of what transpired leading up to the shooting. Both are being held in custody. AFP pointed out that Marseille has long suffered a poor reputation when it comes to crime, seeing more than 40 cases of murder or attempted murder last year.
A 78-year-old Czech man has been charged with attempted fraud in Malaysia, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to ten years and the additional punishment of public flogging. The daily Právo reported that the Czech national is suspected of having tried to defraud a Malaysian with whom he had business ties. The Czech has denied any wrongdoing but will remain in custody ahead of trial, unless bail in the equivalent of 280,000 crowns is posted. On Friday, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmoníček will meet with Malaysia’s ambassador to Prague to discuss the case. According to information available to Czech officials, the 78-year-old suspect travelled to Malaysia to determine whether a business cheque between his Malaysian counterpart and himself was covered.
Czech Radio has reported that former Social Democrat MP Jiří Václavek has drowned while on vacation in Thailand. Czech Radio cited Czech embassy official in Bangkok, Božena Kunová. According to reports, the 68-year-old former politician had gone snorkelling while on a boat trip with other travellers, when the accident happened. Others noticed he had stopped moving in the water and emergency services tried but failed to revive him on shore. Jiří Václavek, an economist by profession, was an MP from 1996 to 2006, after which he made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.
A new poll released by Factum Invenio suggests that six political parties
would make it into the Chamber of Deputies if the election were held
The poll put the Social Democrats top in terms of voter preference, with
27.4 percent, the right-of-second Civic Democrats second, with 23 percent,
and the Communist Party third, with 14.4 percent. The three additional
parties that would pass the necessary five percent threshold are TOP 09,
with 11.8, the newcomer Public Affairs at 7.8, and the Christian Democrats
at 6.2 percent. The survey suggests that the Greens would come up just
short (4.7 percent).
According to Factum Invenio’s research, the current results would not translate into a majority government for either the political Right or Left. The survey also estimated that almost 64 percent of Czechs could go to the polls. The actual election will take place at the end of May.