The Czech Republic may lose over 11 billion crowns (600 million francs) in assets frozen by the Swiss government earlier this year in connection with suspected fraud and money-laundering in one of the Czech Republic’s biggest energy firms –the coalmining company Mostecká Uhelná. Switzerland began a probe into the case in 2005 on suspicion that the company’s directors were embezzling huge sums of money some of which were allegedly being transferred to Swiss accounts within an extensive money-laundering scheme. Seven people have been charged in connection with the case. Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake told Czech Television on Sunday the money could fall through to the Swiss authorities or end up in the hands of the company’s new owner because the Czech Republic had failed to meet a deadline confirming participation in the judicial proceedings.
Military officials and war veterans from the Czech Republic and Commonwealth countries including Great Britain, Australia, India, Ghana and Pakistan, gathered at Prague's Olšany Commonwealth War Cemetery on Sunday to pay tribute to soldiers killed in the Second World War. An Anglican priest led a commemorative ceremony and wreaths were laid on the graves of Commonwealth soldiers' who died on Czech soil. A British representative at the ceremony highlighted the strong link between Czech and British war veterans: over two and a half thousand Czechoslovak pilots flew with the RAF in the course of WWII.
The eastern city of Ostrava is remains on high smog alert with dust concentration levels exceeding five times the permitted norm. Smog regulation measures are in place restricting traffic and production in the big industrial plants in the vicinity. People with chronic health problems, children and the elderly have been advised to stay indoors as much as possible.
Czech singer and songwriter Jaromír Nohavica has been awarded the prestigious Premio Tenco Award, an Italian music award given to outstanding singers and songwriters. He is the only Czech singer to have been thus honoured. Mr. Nohavica accepted the award in person after singing to a packed concert hall in San Remo. Former recipients of the award are Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel, Bulat Okudzhava or Vladimir Vysockij.
The head of the labour office for the Usti region Oldřich Malý has been dismissed from his post. At an improvised press conference on Sunday, Mr. Malý accused the Labour Ministry of having sacked him for political reasons, saying that the ministry was gradually cleansing top posts of Social Democrat party members and sympathizers. The ministry has rejected the accusations saying that Mr. Malý has been dismissed for incompetence.
The number of Czech breweries is dwindling, according to the Association of Czech Brewers. Since the early 90s some two dozen breweries disappeared from the market either because they were poorly managed following privatization or because their buyers had other plans. The number of traditional breweries is now down to 52 but according to the association, there is a growing fashion of mini-breweries set up by restaurants which offer their own brews in limited supply. According to available sources the number of breweries in the Czech lands peaked in the 1850s when there were over 1,000 of them. By 1900 their number had dwindled to 650.
British singer George Michael is expected to make another appearance in Prague with his Symphonica: The Orchestral Tour, which opened in Prague’s State Opera House in August of this year. Michael, who performed a carefully chosen selection of his own songs, spanning all his remarkable, near 30-year career, as well as covers of some of his favourite songs from other artists, got a standing ovation from Czech fans. On Monday the singer will be performing at Prague’s 02 Arena.
Russia won the four-nation Karjala Cup on Sunday after Alexei Morozov scored in overtime to clinch a 4-3 victory over the Czech Republic. The Czechs led 2-0 with early goals from Jan Bulis and Pavel Brendl, but Russia equalized through Oleg Saprykin and Sergei Mozyakin in the second period. Danis Zaripov gave Russia a 3-2 lead in the third, before Jaroslav Bednar equalized with less than five minutes left.
The Karviná black coal mine is investigating a case of mass food poisoning which has now affected over three hundred miners. The health problems started three days ago with new cases reported every hour. They have reportedly affected both miners and above ground employees such as clerks and operators. Hygiene workers are on site taking samples and special measures are in place regarding food and drink. All canteen employees are undergoing tests. The mine has over 5,000 employees and the fall out has so far not effected excavation work.
The opposition Social Democratic party is holding a weekend conference on party policy. Its leader Bohuslav Sobotka on Saturday accused the present government of having failed morally and policy-wise and warned that the growing social divide, corruption and gloomy economic prospects could lead to growing public support for populist and authoritarian politicians. He said the Social Democrats were ready to offer the public a welfare state which could be achieved without increasing public debt. The Social Democrats have proposed the introduction of progressive taxation, abolishing the private pension scheme in the government’s pension reform, and leveling a 76 percent tax on anyone who could not explain the source of their wealth.