The trial of former transport minister and head of the junior coalition party Public Affairs’ parliamentary group Vít Bárta for corruption continues on Tuesday. Mr. Bárta is suspected of having given cash bribes to at least two former party members, Kristyna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka. On the second day of the trial former party member Kristyna Kočí repeated her allegation that Mr Bárta had given her half a million crowns in an envelope in early 2011. She said that their personal relations were strained at the time and that the money was accompanied by a request that she be more loyal and bring the club of party MPs together. She also claimed that all in-party referendums were rigged. Mr Bárta admits to giving the two members money, but says they were personal loans. The trial opened at a Prague district court on Monday and has been the focus of intense media attention, with many news organizations covering it live. Last year, the scandal around Vít Bárta brought the government to the brink of collapse.
An internal audit has found that Prague City Hall loses track of its judicial obligations because there is no oversight of ongoing court cases. The audit was instigated due to several recent situations where city property was nearly seized due to unpaid debts. It found that the records of the city’s ongoing court cases do not show their current status or results, nor is there sufficient control over whether court-ordered obligations are fulfilled or who should be responsible for fulfilling them. In January the city was barred from managing billions of crowns worth of property due to non-payment of a debt of some 200,000 crowns.
President Václav Klaus has asked the Senate to appoint Zdeněk Koudelka to the Constitutional Court. Koudelka, 42, is a former deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party and current director of the Kroměříž law academy. His successful approval in the Social Democrat dominated Senate is not a given, however, as he lacks the support of many within the party. Mr Koudelka is the president’s second nominee to the seat after the upper house rejected Jan Sváček in December on the grounds that he had been joined the Communist Party in 1989.
The Czech National Bank says the banking sector is resilient enough to face even very unfavourable developments. The central bank’s latest stress tests using data leading up to the end of 2011 reportedly prove the “strong capitalisation, profitability and balance sheet liquidity that are the foundations of the stability and resilience of Czech banks”. In the coming three years, the banks would keep their aggregate capital adequacy above the required 8 percent, even in the event of a deep recession in Europe. Some banks would have to raise capital, however. The capital adequacy of the Czech banking sector stood at 15.2 percent at end-2011.
The German press has reported that President Václav Klaus never received the Konrad Adenauer Prize, which he threatened to return last week. Mr Klaus wrote to the foundation last Thursday saying he would return the prize to protest their cancellation of a appearance by one of his former advisors at an upcoming conference. The president’s website also says he received the award in 1993. However, the Frankfurter Algemeine has revealed that Mr Klaus never received the prize, and was only awarded an honorary diploma by the foundation’s Prague branch, which it says was seeking good relations with then Prime Minister Klaus.
The Regional Court of Ostrava is hearing a tax evasion case involving hundreds of millions of crowns traded in fuels. According to the state prosecutor, entrepreneur Radomír Vybíral, his son Roman and five other accomplices cost the state at least half a billion crowns through consumer tax fraud. Vybíral spent seven months in prison six years ago on similar charges involving a sum of 160 million, but was released on lack of evidence. Experts have compared the scale of the suspected fraud to cases involving light heating oil in the early 90s that may have cost the state up to 100 billion crowns.
German Foreign Minister Quido Westerwelle is in Prague to mark the 20th anniversary of a Czech-German cooperation treaty. Speaking after a meeting with his Czech counterpart, Karel Schwarzenberg, Mr Westerwelle said that relations between the Czech Republic and Germany were at their highest ever point and noted that all historic problems had been overcome through friendly cooperation. Regarding the Czech reticence to join the EU fiscal responsibility treaty, Westerwelle said the door remains open to the members who have not signed it. Mr Schwarzenberg said he could not predict whether the Czech Republic would eventually join the treaty, but said he thought things would turn out well in the end.
Cases of the mumps are on the rise in the central region of Pardubice. Epidemiologists have recorded 420 cases in the region in the last two months since the beginning of the year as compared to 220 cases in 2011 total. According to the regional hygienic station most of the cases are in the area of Pardubice and Chrudim, followed by a rise in Ústí nad Orlicí. Young people aged 15 to 16 are apparently most susceptible to the illness. Research is now being conducted to determine why the virus is spreading despite the fact that most of the population is vaccinated - whether the vaccine stopped being effective or whether the virus has mutated.
The One World International Human Rights Film Festival begins on Tuesday evening in Prague’s Světozor and Lucerna cinemas. Now in its 14th year, the festival will be showcasing documentary works from 44 countries with the main theme being protest, unrest and revolt. The People in Need foundation, which organises the event, will also award its annual Homo Homini award to an underground network of health care workers called Doctors Coordinate of Damascus. The festival will later move on from Prague to 40 other Czech towns.
The Prague transit authority will pay 220,000 crowns to a boy who lost part of his foot on an escalator in the Prague metro three years ago. The family of the boy, who was four years old at the time and had to have three toes amputated, had originally sought more than half a million while the transit authority offered 120 thousand. The court recommended that the parties reach a settlement spokeswoman for the company said it was the only and the last case that the transit authority would handle through a payment. As many as seven children have reportedly gotten stuck in metro escalators in the last two years, though no one has sought damages. The company has since installed special brushes intended to prevent such accidents.