Swiss prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison term and steep fines for six Czechs charged with fraud and money laundering in connection with the privatization of the second Czech largest coal mining firm Mostecká uhelná, or MUS. They claim that the company’s former managers used MUS’ own assets in their 1999 takeover of the firm, diverting assets worth billions of crowns to pay for the shares. The charges include money laundering, fraud and forgery of documents, among others. Prosecutor Graziella de Falco Haldemann said the crimes could not have been committed without dummy companies in Switzerland and accounts in Swiss banks.
Former Czech ambassador to the EU, Jan Kohout has accepted an offer to serve as foreign minister in Prime Minister Rusnok’s caretaker cabinet. Mr. Kohout has represented the Czech Republic in several international organizations including the United Nations and OSCE. In 2009-2010 he served as foreign minister in Jan Fisher’s interim government. In a brief statement for the CTK news agency on Monday, Mr. Kohout said his main priorities would be to stabilize the situation at the Czech Foreign Ministry and break the deadlock in the process of naming new ambassadors.
Prime Minister designate Jiří Rusnok has so far secured six ministers for his caretaker cabinet, filling among others the posts of interior minister, justice minister and health minister. Two other key positions –the top posts at the defence and finance ministries - remain vacant. Six candidates have so far refused the prime minister’s offer and political analysts note that Mr. Rusnok is having a hard time finding professionals willing to take on a short stint in his caretaker cabinet. The caretaker cabinet’s chances of winning a vote of confidence in the lower house are also meagre.
The opposition Social Democrats have asked those of its party members who have accepted posts in the Rusnok cabinet to leave the party. Party leader Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday reiterated that the Social Democrats were not involved in this attempt to form a government and those party members who chose to join the Rusnok cabinet should make a clean break from the party. Mr. Sobotka said earlier that the caretaker cabinet emerging was not a government of experts but of President Zeman’s close allies in the Citizens’ Rights Party he founded. The Social Democrats have openly asked for a second attempt to form a cabinet, should the Rusnok administration fail to win a vote of confidence. The Social Democrats who have accepted such an offer are Marie Benešová, who is to serve as justice minister, Jan Kohout who has nodded to the foreign ministry portfolio and František Koníček who is to be social affairs minister.
Monday is the last day on which people over 35 can enter the so-called second pillar of the government’s pension insurance scheme, thereby putting part of their pension funds into private insurance companies. So far the scheme has failed to meet expectations with only around 70 thousand people taking advantage of it. The opposition Social Democrats have said they will scrap the second pillar if they get to form the next government.
The head of the South Bohemian police Radomir Herman has defended the actions of a riot squad which used tear gas against an extremist rally in Ceske Budejovice on Saturday. He said the police had done its duty in keeping the several hundred strong ultra-right protest march from coming close to a gathering of some 200 Romany demonstrators in the Maj housing estate. The police arrested 39 people in the skirmishes. No one has as yet been charged. Tension in the city has been high following an incident at a local playground between the parents of several children.
The quintuplets born to a young mother in Prague a month ago are reported to be doing well and have all gained weight. Doctors reported on Monday that three of them were ready to leave their incubators and the remaining two would follow suit in a couple of days. Their 23-year-old mother, who feeds them every three hours, is also reported to be in good health. If all goes well, the mother and babies could be released from hospital in mid-July.
A woman miraculouslyy survived a fall onto the rail tracks in front of an oncoming train in the Prague subway on Monday. The woman swayed and fell, despite a desperate attempt on the part of a by-stander to save her. She lay slumped on the tracks as the train pulled into the station and went over her. Amazingly the woman survived without a scratch and when two men pulled her out in an opening between two cars she dusted off her trousers and left, refusing medical aid or a breathalyzer test.
Former champion Petra Kvitová became the first player to reach the quarterfinals at this year's Wimbledon, beating Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 7-6 (5), 6-3. Kvitová landed the decisive break for a 4-2 lead in the second set before serving out the win. The Czech eighth seed will face Belgian 20th seed Kirsten Flipkens for a place in the semi-finals. As the highest seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw, Kvitová has a golden opportunity to reach her second grand slam final.
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