A Swiss court has upheld a compliant from the Czech state over the fact
that it was not allowed to participate in the 2013 court case relating to
the fraudulent privatization of the Czech Republic’s largest coal mining
company Mostecka Uhelna(MUS) as a damaged party. The Czech finance ministry
has said it will seek compensation.
The case was tried in Switzerland after Swiss investigators assembled enough evidence on the case to be able to prosecute. The company’s managers received prison sentences from 16 months to 4 years. The damage incurred to the Czech Republic has been estimated at around two billion crowns.
Interior Minister Lubomir Metnar has slammed the leader of the Freedom and
Direct Democracy Party Tomio Okamura for saying that the security situation
in the country had worsened and there was now an increased threat of
terrorist attacks in the Czech Republic. Mr. Okamura, who is deputy chair
of the lower house, made the statement in a video released on the party’s
web page. He pointed to the appearance of new cement blocks around
Prague’s main squares and shopping centres.
Minister Metnar said Okamura was spreading disinformation and sharply dismissed the notion that the security situation had worsened. The country remains on a grade 1 security alert and the measures taken are standard measures during the holiday season, the minister said.
Smuggling of the illegal drug crystal methamphetamine from the Czech
Republic to Germany remains a huge problem, according to the daily Freie
Presse. In an end-of-year assessment of the situation the daily notes that
Czech-German cooperation in clamping down on drug producers and peddlers
has not brought significant results and demand for the drug made in illegal
labs around the Czech Republic is growing both in Saxony and Bavaria.
According to the Czech ambassador to Germany, Tomáš Podivínský, illegal home labs in the Czech Republic produce around ten tons of the drug annually and large quantities are smuggled across the border, where demand still outstrips the offer on the black market. According to the head of the Czech National Ant-Drug Coordination Centre Jakub Frydrych only a fraction of the illegally produced drug ends up in the hands of the police.
In 2016 Czech police confiscated 91 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and cracked down on 261 illegal labs. German police confiscated over 14 kilograms of the drug.
The Transport Ministry has postponed the deadline on a public tender for a
road toll system on Czech motorways after the present contract with the
Austrian firm Kapsch expires in 2019. The original deadline, which was
January 11, has been extended until March 8th in view of the planned
introduction of a unified tolling service in the EU, the so-called EETS.
Four companies have so far entered the competition to operate the road toll. The firms in the running are Kapsch which is currently operating a microwave-based truck tolling system which has come under fire for excessive costs and disappointing returns to state coffers, Skytoll, which is operating a tolling system in neighbouring Slovakia, the German T-Systems International and National Toll Payment Services.
MEPs from the Committee on Budgets have said they will request a copy of
the report by the European Commission’s anti-fraud unit OLAF on the
business dealings of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who is suspected of EU
subsidy fraud in connection with a dubious grant for the Stork’s Nest
Farm and Hotel compound.
Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský of the Christian Democrats said the request would be filed in the first week of January, unless the Czech Finance Ministry released the report by that time. Finance Minister Alena Schillerová from Babiš’ ANO party has so far refused to release the document and has commissioned an expert analysis on which parts of it she could make public.
All other parliamentary parties have asked to see the report. The lower house is to vote in January on whether to strip the prime minister of his immunity, opening the way for prosecution.
President Zeman’s office is reported to have gone over budget by 84
million crowns. According to the news site Manipulatori.cz the budget
allotted to the president’s office for 2017 amounted to 437.8 million
crowns, while expenditures are expected to total 522 million.
According to the office’s chief accountant the bulk of the extra money was spent on maintenance work at Prague Castle and Lany Chateau, the president’s summer residence.
Nearly eight out of 10 Czechs believe that 2018 will not be worse than the current year with the remainder taking a pessimistic view. That’s the outcome of a survey carried out for Broker Consulting by the survey agency Ipsos. Young people aged between 18 and 26 were the biggest optimists with the pessimists most predominant among those aged between 54 and 64. One in six of those who answered questions said they thought they would be able to save over the coming year. Fear of losing their job and having to rely on savings has fallen significantly due to the booming economy.
In ice hockey, veteran Czech player Jaromír Jágr played in his 1731th
game in the NHL on Thursday night, equalling the third placed tally for
match appearances of Ron Francis.
Jágr came back from a two match lay off caused by injury for Calgary to face San Jose. Jágr failed to score in the game and the Calgary Flames lost 2:3 in the shootout.
Minister of Finance Alena Schillerová said on Thursday that it was seeking
legal advice on what aspects of the Stork’s Nest report it could release.
Without such advice parts of the report by the EU anti-fraud report could not be released, she said. The minister added that with the appropriate clearance, parts of the report could be published with a matter of days.
She added that she herself had not read the report, said to be around 50 pages long and in English. Schillerová explained that the the EU anti-fraud office, OLAF, has also sought permission to publish the report.
The contents and timing of the release of the findings could play a role in a vote of confidence in the government of ANO leader Andrej Babiš due to take place on January 10. The report should suggest whether Babiš or those close to him were involved in fraud using EU funds.