The police have arrested five people in an ongoing investigation of the
ProMoPro case in which at least 135 million Czech crowns were embezzled
during the country’s EU presidency in 2009, the news website E15 reported
on Wednesday, citing confidential sources. Among those arrested is Jaroslav
Veselý, the owner of the ProMoPro company, which provided audiovisual and
interpreting services to the Czech government, as well as several of the
firm’s subcontractors; they face charges of embezzlement and money
laundering along with four other people, who have not been taken into
The case might have political implications as the ProMoPro deal was overseen by then EU affairs minister, and the current Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra, of the Civic Democrats, who in the past faced pressure to resign over the scandal.
In related news, Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra has commented on the arrests, stating that he does not see a reason to resign in light of the ongoing investigation. He added that it was up to the courts to determine who would be held responsible for embezzling in connection with the ProMoPro case. The opposition has called on the minister to resign over the scandal. On Thursday, shadow foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek of the Social Democrats asked Prime Minister Petr Nečas to dismiss Mr Vondra.
The Czech Republic is planning to build a new embassy in Washington D.C. that will cost the state some 580 million Czech crowns to construct. The building will be financed through the sale of other state-owned real estate and construction is set to begin in two year’s time. The opposition has criticized the costly project, stating that it is inappropriate to build such an expensive embassy in light of the fact that the government has been implementing extensive austerity measures and closing down embassies around the world in an effort to save funds. The current Czech embassy in Washington, which was built in 1969, will be demolished. Officials say it is in a bad state of repair. The new building will have a futuristic look and a design reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture. It will also serve as a location for various cultural events.
MP Jaroslav Škárka, who is currently on trial for alleged corruption with a ruling expected Friday, will be heading a parliamentary committee in charge of investigating the management of the country’s Supreme Audit Office. The website Czech Position reported on Thursday that the controversial MP would be in charge of the committee. Mr Škárka has refused to comment on press enquiries into whether he would be resigning from his office if he is found guilty on Friday. Jaroslav Škárka is being tried for accepting a bribe from Public Affairs de-facto leader Vít Bárta. The trial has been receiving a lot of media attention as the scandal around Mr. Bárta brought the government to the brink of collapse last year.
Former national team soccer player Karel Poborský is planning to enter
politics. He will run for the Civic Democrats in the regional elections in
South Bohemia. Speaking on the reason for his decision to become active in
politics, the star athlete said that people were becoming increasingly
frustrated with the state of affairs and that he wanted to make a
contribution to change the bad situation of Czech politics. The 40-year-old
added that he wanted to take an active role in his region.
Poborský became famous after scoring a goal in the European Championship game against Portugal in 1996. His goal secured the team's victory and put them through to the semi-finals, in which the Czech Republic played France.
Police have arrested a driver who committed a hit-and-run on the Friday before Easter. The man is currently being interrogated by police. If found guilty, he could face a prison sentence of up to six years. He had previously been banned from driving and was behind the wheel despite not having a valid driver’s license. Last Friday, the man hit a cyclist and left his victim to die at the site of the accident.
A regional court in Hradec Králové has dealt prison sentences of eight and five years to two entrepreneurs charged with fraud. According to the prosecution, the two businessmen, who were running the company Progres Invest, are guilty of some 36,000 fraud cases, cheating clients out of a total of half a billion Czech crowns. The two promised their investment clients high appreciation values even though they were aware they could not deliver them. The company went bankrupt in 1998.
According to a fresh poll by the STEM agency, Jiří Dienstbier, deputy leader of the opposition Social Democrats, remains the most popular Czech politician. He is followed by three other members of his party, among them the Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka; virtually no members of the current government coalition rank high in the recent popularity poll. Prime Minister Petr Nečas’s popularity with voters has declined steeply: He lost about a third of his supporters, as compared to the previous poll. The prime minister came in 13th in the current ranking.
Czechs’ eating habits have been changing in recent years as a result of multiple factors, including the cost of foods, advertising and an increase in public awareness of healthy nutrition. While many Czechs continue to choose foodstuffs according to their price, those with higher incomes are increasingly paying attention to good quality and prefer healthy foods. Nutritionists say that economically weak families tend to choose cheaper groceries, which can have a negative impact on their health. According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, the consumption of bread in the country is on the decline, while pasta, rice and potatoes have been growing more popular.
A twin pair of the rare Steller’s Sea Eagles was born at the Brno zoo. Last year, the first such eagle was bred at the zoo; the recent birth of twin eagles is considered a significant breeding success. Only about 5000 Steller’s Sea Eagles are still living in the wild and their number is on the decline.