According to a fresh survey published by the Public Opinion Research Center, almost two thirds of the population is against the debated hike in VAT. Only about a fifth responded that they were in favor of increasing the tax. Of the roughly 1000 survey participants, university graduates, entrepreneurs, self-employed persons and highly-qualified workers were more likely to be in favor of the planned VAT hike, while those with a lower living standard were less likely to support the government’s plan to increase the tax gradually. The survey also revealed that 70 percent of Czechs do not understand the current tax system.
A policeman who was behind the wheel of a car that crashed off the Hlávkův bridge in the center of Prague on Saturday, plunging into the Vltava river, died on Sunday, a police spokeswoman said on Monday. The 35-year-old driver had been rescued after 25 minutes under water following a collision with another vehicle that had pushed his car over the railing and into the water. The car he was driving belonged to the protective services division of the Czech police, Czech TV reported on Sunday. The division is in charge of protecting government and other officials. Police have asked any witnesses to contact them.
Police are looking for witnesses of an accident in Prague in which a car crashed off a bridge and plunged into the river. The accident occurred when two cars crashed on Hlávkův Bridge in central Prague at around 5:30 PM on Saturday. One of the vehicles, broke through the railing and plunged into the river; its driver was rescued from the water only after some 25 minutes, and is in hospital in critical condition. Passers-by who witnessed the accident told rescue workers there were more passengers in the vehicle; however, rescue workers called off the search after only the driver was found inside. Police have asked any witnesses to contact them.
Elsewhere in the Šumava, environmental activists have begun a campaign of physically blocking certain areas to prevent the logging of bark beetle infested trees. The Hnutí Duha organisation says that the park management does not have the exemption required to cut in the forest but has already marked some 3000 trees in the area. The organisation says there is a risk of large clearings being left in area inhabited by threatened species. The park management and the Environmental Ministry have rejected the criticism. Police visited the site of the protest Friday and found no violation as the activist sit waiting for loggers to arrive in coming days.
Four people have been arrested on suspicion of having firebombed the home of a Roma family in Central Bohemia on Monday. Police say that the group had been walking around the village of Býchory in the early hours of Monday and calling out racist slogans, before one of them threw a lit torch into the occupied house. The residents were able to extinguish the fire without injury. The suspects, aged 20 to 25, were detained later in the day and are being investigated for attempted grievous bodily harm; should a racial motive be determined they will face up to 12 years’ imprisonment.
Interior Minister Jan Kubice and police president Petr Lessy have agreed to put a ceiling on performance bonuses for police chiefs. According to Tuesday’s Lidové Noviny the police president will in future collect a maximum of 300,000 crowns in annual bonuses, while bonuses for heads of regional divisions should not exceed 200,000 crowns a year. The decision follows a scandal linked to revelations that former interior ministers handed out generous bonuses exceeding millions of crowns to their deputies and regional police chiefs.
Nearly two thirds of all Czechs will not be able to afford a summer vacation abroad this year, according to a poll published by the SANEP agency. While 45 percent of the population is planning a holiday for later in the year, almost a third will not be leaving on either a domestic of foreign vacation at all in 2011. For nearly half of the 339 respondents, cost is the most important factor in deciding on a holiday. Of those who are leaving on vacation this summer, one in two will be getting to their holiday destination by car, while only 13.6 percent will be traveling by plane.
Police chief Petr Lessy has announced that he wants to put an end to what he calls the ‘artificial inflation’ of police salaries, the daily Právo writes on Saturday. He said that this year, he introduced a new policy under which the total amount of bonuses and other payments beyond the regular monthly wage a member of the police can receive in a year may not exceed 100,000 Czech crowns. Previously, such payments could reach up to several hundred, in some cases even a million crowns. Some high-ranking officers received inflated pensions as a consequence, since they continued to hold and be paid for administrative posts after they retired from active police duty. In some cases, pensions of several tens of thousands of crowns per month were paid out. This sum that widely exceeds the average pension of around 10,000 crowns.
Colonel Milan Majer has been chosen to be the new chief of the Foreign Police, filling a four-month vacancy left by the promotion of Vladislav Husák. Colonel Majer, who is 43 years old, has been with the police force since 1990 and was previously in charge of the foreign police in the city of Hradec Králové. The foreign police was restructured in January due to budget cuts; seven district directorates were then cancelled and replaced with a foreign police department at each regional police directorate.
The police say they have arrested twenty suspected drug dealers who peddled drugs in the centre of Prague. The suspects are all foreign nationals, and all are reported to have had hard and soft drugs in their possession. Their ringleader has a previous record of drug dealing on Czech territory. Two of them are reportedly in the country illegally and the police also found a Czech minor in their company.