Trade and Industry Minister Martin Kuba has said he wants the government to look into the burgeoning solar energy scandal as soon as possible. The head of the Energy Regulatory Office Alena Vitásková last week accused her predecessors of having illegally upped the prices of electricity from solar plants incurring damages to the tune of tens of billions of crowns. Meanwhile, the head of the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association says that the audit on which Ms Vitáskova based her accusations was doctored and was intended to cover up the organization’s present failings. The government is expected to discuss the matter later this week.
MP Roman Pekárek is to report to prison within five days, to begin serving a five-year sentence for corruption and abuse of office. Mr. Pekárek on Monday confirmed receiving a court order and said he would not try to evade his responsibility. The lower house deputy was found guilty of accepting a one million crown bribe for selling municipal land to a businessman under price. He has resigned his membership in the Civic Democratic Party but has refused to give up his seat in the lower house. Under Czech law there is no way of forcing him to do so.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has slammed his predecessor, the late Václav Havel, in an interview for a Polish weekly, the Czech newspaper Lidové noviny reported on Monday. Mr. Klaus told Do Rzeczy he regarded Mr. Havel as an extreme leftist who had wanted to create an elitist post-democracy rather than a democracy, adding that his “Havelism” was a revived form of Jacobinism. The Czech president said that while he had believed in the state, his predecessor had been a cosmopolitan with a foreign policy of “interventionism (and humanitarian bombing)” rather than respect for any world states. This last point was an evident reference to Mr. Havel’s support for the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999. With marked ideological differences, Mr. Klaus and Mr. Havel had frequent run-ins in the two decades prior to the former dissident’s death in 2011.
The number of Czech companies whose owners are registered in tax havens grew by almost 4 percent last year and has now crossed 12,500 according to an analysis conducted by the Czech Capital Information Agency. According to the data collected 3.4 percent of the total 366,500 companies registered in the Czech Republic are controlled from tax havens. Among the most popular tax havens for Czechs are European destinations such as the Netherlands, Cyprus and Luxembourg.
A Serbian national was detained at Prague airport last week after customs officers found two kilos of heroin in his luggage, the ctk news agency reports. The incident happened on Thursday but the information was not released until Monday, in view of an ongoing investigation. The man was allegedly travelling to Prague from Uganda, via Amsterdam. The street value of the drug has been estimated at several million crowns.
Prague’s Troya Zoo has announced the birth of an elephant calf, the first in the zoo’s 80-year-old history. The calf was born on Monday to a female elephant who came to Prague Zoo in the spring of this year from Rotterdam. Her keepers from Rotterdam Zoo were present at the birth. According to a zoo spokesman the newborn calf will be shown to the public on March 30th.
Meteorologists have issued a snow alert for the coming 48 hours. Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to bring up to 15 centimetres of snow in the lower altitudes and approximately 30 centimetres of fresh snow in the mountain regions. Drivers have been warned to expect traffic complications and not to set out for the mountains without winter gear. The eastern part of the country is already battling with heavy snow with traffic complications and delays in public transport.
A badly set up state system supporting solar energy could end up costing Czech tax payers up to CZK 1 billion, the environment minister, Tomáš Chalupa, said on a TV debate programme on Sunday. The Energy Regulatory Office said on Monday that an internal audit had revealed that some of its officials had acted illegally in setting inflated purchase prices for solar power in the 2005–2011 period. The regulator said excessive charges levied under the scheme could total tens of billions of crowns and filed criminal charges in relation to the matter. Minister Chalupa blamed the situation on deputies who approved the system in 2005 and subsequent governments. He also said that solar power producers could go bankrupt and leave fields of panels for the local authorities to clean up.
The body that brings together companies active in the solar power field is planning to file a criminal complaint against the chairwoman of the Energy Regulatory Office, Alena Vitásková. A representative of the Czech Photovoltaic Industry Association said on Czech TV on Sunday that the regulator deliberately produced false data that was then used by the Constitutional Court. The court ruled last year that the government was within its rights to put a retroactive tax on solar power plant investors in order to curb a solar boom. The industry body says the Energy Regulatory Office’s action against its own staff has been intended to cover up for the organisation’s failings.
President Václav Klaus’s chief of protocol, Jindřich Forejt, will remain in the post under the new head of state, Miloš Zeman. Mr. Forejt had been tipped to be the Czech Republic’s next ambassador to the Vatican. His prospective appointment had been the source of a dispute between Mr. Klaus and the foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, who said the post should only be filled by an experienced diplomat. Another of the outgoing president’s team, his chancellor Jiří Weigl, rejected an offer to remain at Prague Castle. Mr. Klaus steps down on March 7, with Mr. Zeman due to be inaugurated the following day.