Former finance minister and member of the Social Democrat Party, Ivo Svoboda, has reported to a Prague prison to serve a five-year sentence for embezzlement. He and his former adviser, Barbora Snopkova were found guilty of embezzling funds worth 300,000 US dollars from a bankrupt baby carriage manufacturer between 1996 and 1998 and they lost a final appeal in the case last autumn. Mr Svoboda is the first member of a post-Communist Czech government to be handed down a prison sentence.
After several successful years, cinemas in the Czech Republic are coping with dwindling attendances. According to the Film Distributors Association, the number of cinema-goers fell considerably in the first six months of this year, sliding from 6 million in the same period in 2004 to just 4.63 million. Sales also decreased sharply, from 553 million crowns (23 million US dollars) to 423.2 million crowns (17 million dollars). The Film Distributors Association attributes the fall to a lack of blockbusters, and also to increasing piracy. Some experts say that it may also reflect the growing debts of Czech households which have to reconsider their spending priorities.
Theatre director and general commissioner of the Czech exposition at Expo 2005 Vladimir Darjanin is a hot candidate for the post of Czech culture minister to replace Pavel Dostal who died of cancer on Sunday, Czech dailies wrote on Wednesday. If Mr Darjanin were appointed, he would become the fourth non-party member in the coalition cabinet, besides Deputy Prime Minister Martin Jahn, Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan and head of the government Legislative Council Pavel Zarecky. Mr Darjanin who is still in Japan is expected to meet Prime Minister Paroubek later this week.
Police have not found the perpetrator of the May attack on Cesky Telecom CEO Gabriel Berdar and have shelved the case, a spokeswoman for Central Bohemia police said on Wednesday. Mr Berdar was attacked and beaten up outside his house by two men, who probably used an iron bar, in early May. On his way to hospital Mr Berdar started to shoot at a car he believed was driven by the perpetrators. Both men whom Mr Berdar labelled as the assailants denied their guilt.
Electrical engineering has become the Czech Republic's biggest industrial sector, having more than doubled since the year 2000, and having posted a turnover of 436 billion crowns (19 billion US dollars) last year, the economic daily Hospodarske noviny writes. The steel and metal industry in the second place generated a turnover of 400 billion crowns and engineering, the third largest sector, 374 billion crowns last year. Behind the fast growth of Czech electrical engineering is modernisation of companies already integrated into the EU supply system and the launch of new large plants built by foreign investors at the turn of the millennium.
The Prague 1 Town Hall has announced a tender for plans to remodel the city's main thoroughfare, Wenceslas Square. Councillors say it needs to improve in terms of layout and transport, and want to ban the parking of cars on the square. They also want to see wider pavements, more benches and less stands, said a spokesperson. Architects must submit their proposals by the end of November, though the project to reshape Wenceslas Square is unlikely to be completed before 2010.
Czech ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr is considering remaining in the
Russian league, as the NHL's new salaries agreement has limited his
earning potential. Jagr told daily Mlada fronta Dnes he will decide in
the next three weeks whether to return to the New York Rangers or stay
with rich Russian club Omsk, where he played during the NHL lockout.
Meanwhile, Ottawa have confirmed that legendary Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek will remain at the club next season. Hasek, who is now 40, has not played regularly for three seasons.
The Czech national carrier Czech Airlines saw an 18-percent increase in passenger numbers to 2.3 million in the first half of this year, it was announced on Tuesday. But CSA still looks set to post a loss of several hundred million Czech crowns this year due to rising fuel prices. However, the head of Czech Airlines, Jaroslav Tvrdik, said the situation could improve, depending on oil prices in the second half of the year.
Inspectors have found shortcomings in children's camps around the Czech Republic, but have not closed any down, a Health Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday. Of 480 camps inspected, 69 were found to have insufficient food hygiene. There are over 2,000 summer camps in the Czech Republic, which are being attended by almost 200,000 children in the course of the summer.
The Czech Republic has protested to the Cuban government against the arrest of around two dozen dissidents on the island last Friday. The Czech Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on Havana to respect human rights and release all political prisoners; it said it would maintain its policy of campaigning within the European Union against human rights abuses in Cuba.