The selection committee seeking a candidate to direct the Prague transit authority has been cancelled due to an information leak. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda told the daily Právo that he was called at 2 a.m. by journalists who knew who was winning the tender at what price, despite the committee’s decision having been in a sealed envelope. Mr Svoboda, who heads the committee, added that it would not be possible to choose a director amid such pressure from the media and all sides. The Prague Public Transport Company received nine offers from personnel agencies to provide a director and had narrowed its choice down to two.
In related news, Mayor Svoboda has announced that the city’s transit authority will have to undergo an massive audit in order to check all of the commissions and contracts in which corruption is suspected. The sale and printing of tickets will also be checked. He said he is aware that the word audit is used ever more frequently to replace a real solution or win time, but that it was the only way to truly find out what was going on the Prague Public Transport Company. Interim director Magdalena Češková says her priorities are securing the lowest possible prices and the greatest transparency in new tenders. She also wants new rules on making orders and a new tender for ticket printing and IT services.
Health Minister Leoš Heger has told the daily Právo that the anti-corruption measures he ordered for the organisations he manages directly have brought savings of more than a billion crowns. The health minister said that teaching hospitals in particular have shown reduced costs for medical materials and medicines. He added that the health care facilities he manages had shown an economic result of nearly half a billion in spite of the poor economic climate and increases of doctors’ salaraies of 5 to 8,000 crowns. The president of the Czech doctors’ chamber, Milan Kubek, says he is unimpressed by the measures, which in his opinion have not brought more accountability in health business matters.
The family of painter Alphonse Mucha is preparing a concept for the permanent placement of the Slav Epic in the main train station in Prague. The family’s foundation plans to submit the technical and visual plans for a building that they say will be nearly identical to the painter’s own plan to the City Hall in March. Grandson John Mucha says a part of the family has agreed the idea with the municipal government and the Italian development company responsible for renewing the Art Nouveau station. The twenty canvasses of the masterpiece are currently in a Prague depository, after the city gallery had them moved from Moravský Krumlov last year.
The number of foreigners residing illegally in the Czech Republic could be as many as 400,000, or nearly the same as the number of legal foreign residents. The estimate was provided by migration experts from Charles University attending an international conference on immigrations trends in Prague. They say immigration to the country is predicated not only by the Czech Republic’s economic strength but also by the migration policy, which since the 1990S has shifted from “liberal, to restrictive, to restrictive-integrative", in the words of one of the sociologists present. The influx of foreigners however has been stalled since 2008 by the economic crisis, she added.
The District Court of Plzeň has given a special life sentence to a man convicted of murder for the second time. According to court documents, the man stabbed his 57-year-old flatmate to death in the summer of last year when she demanded he move out after failing to pay rent for several months. He then stayed in the flat and spent several days by the body, lighting candles and leaving offerings of wine and cigarettes. The man had already spent 11 years in prison for murdering another flatmate with a hammer in 1994.
Police have charged two Bulgarian nationals who they suspect of having affixed scanning equipment to ATM machines in Prague in order to steal card information and thereby money. Investigators believe they were successful in three cases and attained around 30,000 crowns, however the data they acquired may have given them access to millions. If convicted of credit card fraud they will face up to eight years in prison.
A Czech Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Ruzyne Airport after one of the pilots died on board. The plane was bound from Warsaw to Prague when control was alerted to have medics on standby because one of the pilots had collapsed. The plane landed safely and according to an airlines spokeswoman there was no threat to passenger safety. However doctors were unable to help the 55-year-old pilot who was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Police have charged four foreigners with supporting terrorism. It is the first time the Czech police have ever investigated specific individuals on terrorism related charges. The organised crime division believes the men, three Russians and one Moldavian who were detained last year, falsified documents for the radical Dagestani organisation Shariat Jamaat. Police say the suspects made high-quality forgeries that were very difficult to spot and were able to create entirely new identities. If convicted they face up to ten years’ imprisonment.
Fresh overnight snowfall across the Czech Republic has caused considerable travel woes for drivers across much the country, according to the ČTK news agency. Day-time temperatures around zero Celsius in non-highland regions have left roads wet and slippery. Traffic police reported huge pile-ups on the D1, D5 and D8 motorways, all of which had to be closed for several hours in the course of the day. In the Hradec Králové region, snowfall caused a shutdown of the Náchod border crossing to Poland while the road leading from the town of Vrchlabí to the skiing town of Špindlerův Mlýn is only accessible with the use of snow chains on tyres. There are also reports of severe train disruptions on three lines, Tanvald - Harrachov, Mladá Boleslav -Stará Paka and Horní Lideč – Bylnice.