The Czech police have asked Ghana for assistance in helping to throw light on the case of Michal Kraus, the former head of the Social Democrats deputies group in Parliament, who is suspected of fraud and money laundering in connection with a 500 million crown investment in a Ghana cocoa processing plant. Kraus was involved in transferring a large sum of money to the plant and he later signed contracts in Ghana, which he visited in the company of Czech businessman Frantisek Rige, who is now serving a prison sentence for fraud. Kraus, who was the country's longest serving lower house deputy resigned as budget committee chairman when the cocoa affair surfaced late last year.
Preventive measures are in effect following the first incidence of bird flu in the Czech Republic. A dead swan found in the Vltava River near the town of Hluboka nad Vltavou in the south of the country, was infected with the H5 virus. Further tests are now being conducted to ascertain whether it was the deadly H5N1 variety, which is dangerous to humans. In line with EU regulations the authorities have imposed strict safety measures inside a 10 kilometrer high risk zone, including a ban on outdoor breeding and transport of birds and poultry products. Further measures will follow if the result of the tests turns out to be positive.
Twenty-six political parties and groupings have registered to run in the June parliamentary elections, compared to 29 in the last national election four years ago. Latest polls suggest that five parties can be expected to pass the five-percent threshold and make it to parliament: the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, the ruling Social Democrats, the Communists, the coalition Christian Democrats and for the first time the Green Party.
President Klaus has signed into law a bill increasing the birth allowance and a state contribution to parents of first graders to help purchase teaching aids. As of April 2006 the birth allowance will grow from 8,600 to 17,500 crowns per child. The ruling Social Democrats have promised to increase the birth allowance still further if they win the June general elections.
Towns and villages across the Czech Republic are battling with local
floods, as a result of melting snow and persistent rain. The north, south
and eastern parts of the country have been hit and the army has been
called in to help the worst affected areas. Two villages in the north have
had to be evacuated, one of them counting 500 inhabitants. In other places
firemen are pumping water from cellars and gardens. People have been
filling sandbags and erecting makeshift barriers to try to protect their
property. Several roads have had to be closed down. 3,000 firemen and 900
soldiers are in the field, and Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said another
800 were on standby should the situation worsen.
The Czech capital Prague is likewise on flood alert and there are preparations to offset a small scale flood. The area between Charles Bridge and Lichtenstein Palace is being cleared out for the erection of anti-flood barriers and Prague's Troja Zoo is preparing for a possible evacuation of 1,000 animals.
Two Bulgarians, a Serb and an Albanian accused of belonging to an international gang specializing in the production of counterfeit euros were served prison sentences from three to thirteen years by a Prague court on Tuesday. The four counterfeiters belonged to a wider international gang, some of whose members are currently on trial in Bulgaria. The four judged in the Czech Republic were caught red-handed in Prague in June 2004 by two undercover German policemen who pretended they wanted to buy 6.8 million counterfeit euros.
The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has condemned the police violence in the Belarusian capital Minsk and called on President Alexander Lukashenko to resign from office. Lukashenko was recently elected for a third year term in elections that EU observers said were neither free nor fair. Many people were injured and arrested in the opposition demonstrations which followed. Mr. Havel took a written petition to the Belarusian embassy in Prague on Tuesday but was refused admission.
The Czech Republic's biggest recruitment agency Trenkwalder Kappa People warned on Tuesday that South Korean car giant Hyundai could face problems recruiting the 3,000 workers needed for its future car plant in the east of the country. The warning came a day after Hyundai announced that it will site its first European factory at Nosovice with an investment of 800 million euros. TKP's Petra Rosselova said that the unemployed in the region would probably not meet the employer's demands and that 50% of the workers needed might have to be recruited from neighbouring Poland and Slovakia. The plant is to start production in October 2008.
According to Friday's issue of The Washington Times, the United States is close to completing a deal that will result in the creation of a third ground-based missile interceptor site in Europe. The candidate nations for the site are Poland, the Czech Republic and Britain, a senior U.S. defence official told the paper. More than 100 million dollars is already authorised for the site, which is part of the global U.S. missile defence system now oriented toward Asia. A spokesman for the Czech Defence Ministry said the Czech Republic had not received any specific offer, adding that longterm consultations had been held only at NATO level.
Czech auto producer Skoda Auto has announced it has launched series production of its Roomster family car at its Kvasina plant in the east of the country. At least 15,000 Roomster cars should be produced by the end of the year, with the starting price at 14,260 US dollars, the company, part of the Volkswagen Group, said. The Roomster, the fourth Skoda Auto model, was officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show at the end of February. Sales of the car will be launched on main European markets this summer.
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