A Swiss court handed down prison sentences to five Czechs on Thursday for asset stripping, fraud, money-laundering and breach of trust, in a case surrounding the privatization of the Czech Republic’s second largest coal mining company, Mostecká Uhelna. The former managers, who received between 16 and 52 months in prison, used the company’s own assets to buy a majority stake in the firm, diverting some of the money into Swiss bank accounts. The Swiss authorities launched an investigation into the matter in 2011. Two of the defendants – Petr Kraus and Antonín Koláček – were detained in court, though the others were not present at the sentencing. The sixth defendant in the case, the 86-year-old Belgian citizen Jacques de Groote, will have to pay a fine for his involvement. Charges are still pending against the Czech former managers in the Czech Republic, though they may have to be dropped given the Swiss court’s decision.
According to the Palestinian news agency MAAN, Czech officials have assured the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that the Czech Republic is not planning on moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv. The PLO expressed outrage at a recent statement from President Miloš Zeman that he would like to see the Czech embassy moved to Jerusalem. The Czech ambassador in Syria, Eva Filipi, told the news agency that the president’s words were misinterpreted; she said that the Czech Republic supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state with the capital in Jerusalem. The Arab League has also invited the Czech ambassador in Egypt, Pavel Kafka, to explain the Czech president’s statement to its representatives.
Close to 8,000 Czechs living abroad have registered to vote in the upcoming general elections, the Czech New Agency reports. They will be able to cast their ballot at 104 polling stations set up at Czech embassies, and some of them will have to travel hundreds of miles to do so. Czechs in Kenya, the Congo, Columbia and Costa Rica will have to travel to another country to cast their vote since the Czech Republic recently closed down its embassies in those states due to austerity measures. Voters abroad will make their choice from the Central Bohemian election ballot.
The coal and coke producer New World Resources (NWR) is planning to sell off the OKK coking plant in the Ostrava region by the end of the year. Although the final decision on the sale is yet to be approved by its shareholders, the company says it believes the move will be met with approval since it will help NWR consolidate its operation and focus more on mining. NWR recently came under a lot of criticism after its subsidiary company OKD announced the decision to shut down the Paskov coal mine by the end of next year.
Intelligence officer Jan Pohůnek gave testimony to the police on Thursday in connection to the case of unsanctioned spying involving former chief of staff of the former prime minister Petr Nečas, Jana (Nagyová) Nečasová. The police suspect the now wife of Mr. Nečas of ordering the military intelligence service to spy on the former premier’s ex-wife Radka. Mr. Pohůnek’s lawyer Michal Hráský told reporters before his client’s deposition that Radka Nečasová was not being spied on, but that the intelligence service was actually protecting her from possible spying by other parties, which could be a breach of national security.
The Czech Republic’s state dept has decreased by more than 14 billion crowns in September since the beginning of the year, according to information released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday. This is the first decrease in state dept since the 1990’s. Currently, the debt is 1.654 trillion, which amounts to more than 157,000 crowns per person in the Czech Republic.
Moody’s bond credit rating agency has announced that of all the Central European countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the least vulnerable to the adverse effects of the change in monetary policy of the American Federal Reserve. The agency expects that after the Fed limits its monetary stimulus policy, financial liquidity problems will arise in other countries, forcing interest rates to rise. The most vulnerable Central European country in this situation would be Hungary.
A human torso was found in the Vltava river on Thursday near the Barrandov bridge in Prague. A leg was found the day before near the river close by. Whether the two parts belonged to the same body has not been confirmed. The police are investigating the case, but have not released any further information.
The National Gallery in Prague has received five requests from religious institutions to return a total of 29 works of art, under the church property restitution law. The requests came, for example, from the Cistercian Order, the order of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, the Augustinians and others. The National Gallery is hoping to agree with the orders to keep the pieces in their permanent collection as long-term loans. Under the church restitution law adopted last year, religious institutions are allowed to request the return of items which were functionally linked to the properties owned or restituted by the institutions.