The Supreme State Attorney Renata Vesecká has taken up a US offer to
cooperate in an investigation into suspected corruption over the purchase
of fighter jets by the Czech government. A spokeswoman for the state
attorney said on Thursday that a justice ministry representative was sent
to Washington at the end of July to seek out information. The state
attorney reopened the case over the deal to purchase 24 Gripen jets from
the BAE systems/SAAB consortium in March after investigations were twice
shelved by the police. The latest inquiry also involves cooperation with
Austria and Switzerland.
The Social Democrat Czech government originally decided in 2002 to purchase 24 jets for 60.2 billion crowns but failed to win support for the contract in Parliament. It was eventually replaced by a contract to lease 14 jets for 20 billion crowns over 10 years. BAE systems was fined nearly 400 million dollars at the start of this year by the US Department of Justice and British Serious Fraud Office for false statements and irregular accounting connected with multi-billion defence contracts.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has explained cost cutting
measures including planned embassy and consulate closures at a meeting
President Václav Klaus on Thursday. According to leaks, the ministry
to close two embassies in South America and two in Africa as well as a
consulate in India due to budget cuts. The Nigerian embassy in Lagos and
embassy in Venezuela are said to be among those tipped for closure.
Mr. Schwarzenberg said the president agreed that the closures were a ministry matter. The government was due to discuss the closures on Wednesday but that debate was postponed. The lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee criticised the planned closures saying that it should have been informed before final decisions were taken and called for further analysis.
The new head of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes will
be the former spokesman for the Czech Bishops’ Conference, Daniel
the institute said. The institute’s council met on Thursday to select a
replacement from nine shortlisted applicants for the job. Mr. Herman won
support from five out of its seven members. He will start his five year
term on August 16.
The former director, historian Jiří Pernes, was dismissed in May following accusations of plagiarism. The institute, created to investigate Nazi and Communist era crimes with the aid of secret police archives, has experienced a tumultuous time since its creation in 2008.
Details of eight Czech citizens believed to be caught up in floods and landslides in northern India are still being sought according to the Czech ambassador in India. The ambassador said on Thursday that at least 80 Czechs are still waiting to be evacuated from the stricken region but some groups had decided to stay on in the country to help with the recovery work. Around 170 people have been confirmed dead and 400 are missing in the wake of the flooding in northern India.
The Czech Environment Minister announced on Thursday that he had dismissed the director of the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, the country’s main watchdog for seeing that environmental legislation is respected. Minister Pavel Drobil said that Eva Tylová would be replaced by her deputy, Milan Bukolský, on Friday. The minister from the right of centre Civic Democrats said the dismissal formed part of organizational changes aimed at putting the emphasis more on prevention than repression. He has criticized the inspectorate in the past saying that it had an ideological agenda. Eva Tylová is a member of the Green Party.
An opinion poll by the agency SC&C for public broadcaster Czech Television has found that three parties are neck and neck as regards public support. The left of centre Social Democrats topped the poll with 21 percent of support according to results of the survey released on Thursday. TOP 09 followed with 20 percent with the Civic Democrats third with 19 percent. Both the Communist Party and Public Affairs commanded 11 percent support. Compared with the election results at the end of May TOP 09 has leapfrogged the Civic Democrats into second place. The preferences would translate into the Social Democrats getting 53 seats in the 200 seat lower house of parliament followed by TOP 09 with 51 and the Civic Democrats with 46. The Communists and Public Affairs party would each get 25 seats.
The Czech Republic’s biggest carmaker Škoda Auto has halted production at its biggest plant and reduced production at another due to supply problems linked with the recent floods on Thursday. Škoda closed down production at its Mladá Boleslav plant in the early afternoon due to flood damage to a Czech plant which supplies car ceilings. Output has also been curtailed at its Vrchlabí plant. Normal production at Škoda Auto should resume on Monday.
Sentences of up to nine years in prison were given out on Thursday by a regional court in České Budějovice to a 17-strong gang which supplied Czech women for prostitution in Norway. The trial of the gang, 10 men and seven women who mostly came from around Písek and Prachatice, began in October following investigations which also involved Danish and Norwegian police forces. The prosecution said the gang supplied dozens of women, in one case a girl aged under 18, to Norwegian clients. Drugs were used to help keep the women obedient, the court heard.
Czech farmers are predicting a bumper harvest of hops this year which could reach around 6,500 tonnes. That would put the harvest on a par with the results from the last two very good years. One factor that contributed to the favourable outlook is the sudden cooler spells in June and July which stopped the plant maturing too early. Recent rains have also helped. Hop prices are however set to drop due to increased production worldwide and the fact that breweries have accumulated stocks of hops due to decreased production.
The Czech Republic’s footballers beat Latvia 4:1 in a friendly on Wednesday night. All the goals came in the second half, with the first scored by Roman Bednář, who was making his first appearance for the national side since being photographed by a UK tabloid buying drugs last year. The other Czech players to get on the score sheet were Martin Fenin, Zdeněk Pospěch and substitute Tomáš Necid. Next month the Czechs – who failed to make it to this summer’s World Cup – start their campaign to reach the 2012 European Championship with a tie against Lithuania. Their group also includes world champions Spain, Scotland and Liechtenstein.