Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek spoke with Petr Lessy, president of the Czech police service, about the ongoing corruption investigation related to CASA military plane purchases in 2009. So claimed Petr Lessy on Thursday at a meeting of a parliamentary committee on security, saying that Kalousek had called him personally three times on July 4th to complain about the police investigation related to colleague Vlasta Parkanová. Lessy also claimed that the Finance Minister issued threats for which he subsequently apologized. Recently, Prime Minister Petr Nečas warned his colleagues that efforts by politicians to interfere in public investigations will be treated by him as a sacking offence. Mr Kalousek is already under fire for alleged lobbying of the police over their investigation of former Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová.
Prime Minister Nečas called the decision on Wednesday by fellow MPs to strip former defence minister Vlasta Parkanová of her immunity, opening the way for prosecution, the only “logical step”. He also called on all organs investigating Parkanová, who is suspected of abuse of public office and breach of trust in connection with a questionable 3.5 billion crown purchase of CASA military transport planes while she served as defence minister in 2009, to carry out their duties effectively and in an impartial manner. But the PM also expressed concern at the police service with regards to their investigation of Parkanová, saying that their methodology has left many unanswered questions. The motion was supported by 117 of the 176 MPs present with 45 against; the PM was among those who voted for it. Ms Parkanová has denied any wrongdoing. Since 1993, 18 MPs have been stripped of immunity at the request of the police, with the current parliament having given up a record five.
Tram services have resumed along Prague’s Evropská Street following an incident last Sunday in which part of the carriageway collapsed creating a several metre wide crater. Presently, the resumed tram service will skip the station Hořoměřická closest to the site of the incident, while a nearby bus station has been temporarily relocated. Initial speculation on the cause of the cave-in focused on work to extend the A line of the Prague metro towards the city’s main airport. However, experts soon dismissed this theory, instead speculating that recent strong rains had exposed caverns underneath the street. Road traffic is set to resume along Evropská on Friday around noon according to local authorities.
The new Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blažek met on Thursday with prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová, the official recommendee of Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman for the post of head of the Prague's high state attorney's office. Zeman proposed her appointment in June, but the then justice minister Jiří Pospíšil, was dismissed by the PM before he managed to install her to the post. Critics alleged that Bradáčová’s record as a fearless anti-corruption investigator had led to the dismissal. All eyes are now on Pospíšil’s successor, who met Monday with Pavel Zeman, has indicated that he favours Bradáčová for the post, but added that he wishes to have an in-person meeting before making a final decision. Following the meeting, Blažek signalled that more meetings were forthcoming before his makes a final decision.
New Justice Minister Pavel Blažek spent at least 13 million crowns purchasing property across the country, according to a report by denikinsider.cz. The newly appointed minister has properties in Brno, Marianské Lázně, Lišeň and Prague, spending huge sums of money to purchase the properties between 2001 and 2010. However, in response to the report, Blažek denied that there was anything untoward in the public servant and former lawyer having such sums of money available for the purchases, saying that they were made at a time when he and his wife had larger incomes. The new minister is reported to have made around 2.5 million annually from income derived from his properties as well as his salary as a lawyer. However, media reports have speculated on a possible nefarious connection between a 2001 7.5 million house purchase by Blažek and a tender related to the Ministry of Health and the company Diag Human. Mr Blažek has denied that there is any connection between these two events.
Petr Kušnierz, the former head of the North-West Regional Operational Programme (ROP) was jailed for seven and a half years on Thursday by a court in the city of Ústí nad Labem. In addition to the sentence, Kušnierz was also fined a quarter of a million crowns for corruption. Specifically, the ROP head was charged with seeking bribes of at least 1.7 million crowns per EU grant applicant. Three accomplices of Kušnierz as well as three grant applicants were also found guilty of wrongdoing. The entire case began with a March 2011 raid on the ROP premises by the country’s Organized Crime Detection Unit.
The Czech government has approved a bipartisan proposal to rid legislators of life-long immunity for prosecution for crimes committed while in office. The proposal is sponsored by Civic Democrat lower house chair Miroslava Němcová and her deputy, Social Democrat Lubomír Zaorálek as well as fellow deputy chair Vlasta Parkanová, who was stripped of immunity on Wednesday as police investigate her role in a controversial arms sales contract in 2009. The most recent attempt to amend the status of Czech politicians was rejected by the Senate in May of this year, after having been approved by the Lower House. However, analysts say that this was more down to the absence of a large number of senators during that vote. The Senate is currently considering two similar sets of legislation dealing with immunity: a Civic Democrat plan that would only preserve immunity for parliamentary votes and speeches and a Social Democrat plan for the complete ditching of immunity. The Senate is due to take up the issue later this month.
Government austerity measures are set to hit the The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, an NGO tasked with understanding the Czech historical experiences of Nazism and Communism in particular. According to budget proposals by the government, by 2015, grants given to the Institute will decline by 17 million crowns, from 151.4 million to 134.7 million crowns. Under the plans, the reductions will kick in from next year, in which a 2.7 million crown decrease in funding is planned. The Institute was founded via a legal statute in 2007.
A forty-year-old man has been arrested in the city of Ostrava for the alleged theft of at least sixteen manhole covers between May and June. The estimated cost to the city of the thefts is around 53,000 crowns, according to local police. The man, who has not been publicly identified, was apparently caught with three manhole covers in his car following police surveillance. According to the police, the man would break down the metal covers before selling them for scrap.
A 47-year-old man is in custody in the Czech town of Rumburk after he managed to exchange a joke €1000 banknote with clear erotic motifs for 24,000 crowns in a local grocery store. The store owner agreed to the exchange before later examining the banknote more closely. He then went to a local bank, which confirmed that it was a fake. Indeed, €1000 banknotes do not even exist. Police later managed to apprehend the man in question, who faces up to two years in prison. He reportedly apologised for the fraud, but had already spent a third of his windfall.
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