Police in Switzerland have arrested fugitive Czech businessman Tomáš Pitr, the organised crime department of the Czech police has reported. Mr Pitr has been on the run since 2007 when he failed to report to prison after being convicted of tax offences. An international warrant was issued and Czech detectives learned of his whereabouts on Monday; Swiss police however were unable to definitively reveal his identity until Wednesday afternoon. Earlier this year, the 39-year-old received another six-year sentence in absentia for fraud and mismanagement of property that caused damage exceeding 700 million crowns to a number of state-controlled companies.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes says it has uncovered the details of a case of Russian espionage that may have resulted in the resignation of three Czech generals. Citing anonymous sources, the paper says that a psychologist employed by the Czech prison service was in fact a Russian agent, and used his acquaintance with a female major in the Czech Army to acquire information about three army generals whose office she ran. The paper based its investigation on this year’s Military Intelligence report, which states that Czech counter espionage had identified and eliminated an infiltration of the army command by Russian military intelligence the year before, as it attempted to gather sensitive information. The paper notes that the three Czech generals in question resigned within six months of the alleged agent leaving his own his position, in September of last year, and surmises that a recent break-in at the offices of the army General Staff may have been related.
The government has approved a measure to freeze the expenses of each of the ministries at 10.2 billion crowns, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told reporters after the cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday. Another 1.8 billion will go towards the General Cash Administration, which manages state debt. The measure, which was proposed by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, was passed unanimously in spite of earlier opposition from the Public Affairs party, whose chairman said Tuesday that the measures unfairly burdened the party’s four ministries. That statement, which was made publically, was met angrily by the prime minister, who said all ministries were being asked to make cuts and any minister who couldn’t shoulder the burden had no place in government. The aim of the measure is to maintain the public finances deficit at 5.3 percent of GDP.
President Václav Klaus has weighed in on the debate over moving the Alfonse Mucha’s Slav Epic to Prague. The mayor of the town of Moravský Krumlov, which has hosted the Czech masterpiece for over 50 years, says the president telephoned him unexpectedly on Wednesday to lend his support to the towns effort to keep the cycle of paintings where they are. Mayor Jaroslav Mokrý said that the president had told him that Prague has enough extraordinary artefacts and does not need the work. Mayor Mokrý said that the president’s support was encouraging and proves that the town’s efforts to keep the cherished artwork have not been in vain. A ban on moving the Slav Epic will remain in place until uncertainties surrounding a 1913 contract granting it to the city of Prague have been cleared up. Alfonse Mucha donated the 20-painting collection to Prague on the condition that the authorities built a dedicated home for his late masterpiece, a condition that remains unfulfilled. On Sunday around 1,000 people demonstrated against it being moved from Moravský Krumlov, where it is the biggest tourist attraction.
The Mašín brothers will not be attending the funeral of their partner Milan Paumer, who participated in their violent escape from communist Czechoslovakia in 1953. Ctirad Mašín told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes that neither he nor his brother would return to their homeland as long as they risked a negative reception. Though honoured as heroes by the Czech prime minister in 2008, the three anti-communist partisans are still considered criminals by many, as they killed six people during their flight to West Berlin. Neither the Czech president Václav Klaus nor his predecessor Václav Havel will be attending the funeral. Prime Minister Petr Nečas however said that he would be in attendance if work allowed, and called Milan Paumer a brave man and a symbol of the communist resistance. Milan Paumer died last Thursday at the age of 79.
A new poll by the agency Focus suggests that a third of Czechs are satisfied with the composition of the coalition government. According to the poll, 32% of respondents have a positive perception of the government’s personnel makeup while 21% have a negative perception. Respondents were also asked about their expectations of the new government, to which a majority said they expect reductions of the state debt and unemployment rates, as well as a less misuse of social welfare. More than half of those asked said they believed the government would be capable of pushing through important measures. The new centre-right cabinet was appointed two weeks ago and consists of six ministers from the Civic Democratic Party, five from TOP 09 and four from the Public Affairs party.
A municipal bus carrying 30 people caught fire on Tuesday in Brno; everyone inside was able to flee the vehicle in time and no one was injured. The driver apparently heard a loud noise from the back of the articulated bus and flames and thick smoke began to spread quickly before he stopped and helped evacuate the passengers, which included one invalid. The fire completely destroyed the bus, which cost roughly two million crowns. The South Moravian fire department said that the fire had evidently been caused by a fuel leak.
The body of a woman who the police identified as one of their own officers was found on Wednesday morning in the town of Ostrava. The 22-year-old woman had apparently shot herself in a wooded area and was discovered by a passerby the next day. The report comes only one day after the announcement that another female police officer had shot and killed herself in her office at Prague police headquarters several weeks before. The woman in the latter case had left a letter in which she said she was being mobbed and humiliated by her superiors. Police in north Moravia said there was nothing to indicate that the Ostrava officer’s suicide was related to her work.
New companies established in the Czech Republic topped 12.600 in the first half of the year, showing year-on-year growth of 10%. Nearly a half of the new businesses were founded in Prague and more than 60% trade in wholesaling, real estate, services or construction. The ČEKIA information agency which released the results told the Czech Press Agency that 2010 could break records if the tempo continues for the rest of the year. The vast majority of the new entities (95.4%) were limited liability companies, while only 581 were joint-stock companies.
Football’s Sparta Prague edged Lech Poznan 1:0 on Tuesday evening in first-leg of their Champions League third-round qualifier. The win gives them a slender advantage when they face their opponents in the second-leg in Poland. Sparta’s Erich Brabec scored the game’s lone goal with 12 minutes remaining after Libor Sionko set up a cross leading to the strike. Ahead of the match, security was heightened to prevent any clashes between Sparta fans and visiting Polish rowdies; there were only a few minor incidents.