Methanol-laced bootleg liquor claimed its 18th victim in the Czech Republic when an older man died on Wednesday in his apartment in Havířov, in the north east of the country. Another five cases of suspected methanol poisoning have been registered in the country over the last 24 hours, Health Minister Leoš Heger said. One man has been hospitalized in Písek, in southern Bohemia, the first case registered in the region. The authorities continue to collect and test samples of spirits; more than half of 57 spirits samples collected in the Moravian-Silesian regions tested positive for methanol.
The 20th season of the Czech hockey extraliga begins on Thursday with a match between last year’s runners-up Kometa Brno and newcomers Chomutov. Commentators see no apparent favourites of the season but expect Sparta Prague, Pardubice and Třinec to play for the title. The top hockey division has slightly changed the relegation system for the new season; two best teams from the second top league, instead of one, will this year play two worst extraliga teams for spots in the top division.
Six MPs of the ruling Civic Democrat party, who last week torpedoed the government’s plan to raise the VAT rates, said the rates should be kept on the current level next year. After a meeting with the head of the Civic Democrat deputies’ group, the MPs said the only alternative was to unify the VAT rates into a single rate. Their support will be crucial in a repeat vote on the government’s tax legislation which has been linked to a vote of confidence. Party leaders said they still hoped to find a compromise solution.
Police in north Moravia have arrested two men over the possession of bootleg liquor. The men, aged 46 and 47, were detained on Wednesday after inspectors found 400 litres of alcohol in various containers without duty stamps, a police spokeswoman said. The alcohol is now being tested for the presence of methanol. The police have also charged two people from Havířov and Zlín with offences related to the distribution of bootleg liquor.
The market prices of apartments continued to drop in the second quarter of 2012, according to figures by the Czech Statistical Office released on Thursday. The prices of older flats decreased by 5.7 percent while the prices of new apartments in Prague fell by 3.4 percent. Analysts say the continuing decrease in apartment prices is related to the construction of new housing projects.
The European Commission has refused to pay around one billion euros into four Czech operational programmes over errors in their administration, the news website aktualne.cz reported on Thursday. The subsidies have been cut for the Transport, Environment, Enterprise and Innovation programmes as well as for the Regional Operational Program South-West. The programmes will have to be subsidized from the state budget and the budget of two regional authorities. Government officials have refused to comment on the matter. The website reported that funding might also be cut for other Czech operational programmes.
In related news, emergency inspections of 410 restaurants and drinking establishments in nine of the country’s 14 regions throughout Monday and Tuesday, uncovered flaws in 75 cases – the majority related to missing acquisition records. Establishments will have to provide the missing documentation within three days, Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Wednesday. Two cases are being investigated by the police, six cases are being handled by customs officials. In several cases, establishment owners were ordered, in the presence of a hygiene officer, to destroy liquor on site.
The death toll from methyl alcohol poisoning related to bootleg production has reached sixteen, the Czech news agency and other sources reported. Others remain in hospital in serious condition. Earlier on Wednesday the government set up an emergency task force to respond to the alarming number of cases of methyl alcohol poisoning. The task force, which includes representatives from a number of ministries including health, interior and industry and trade, as well as the police president and customs officials, has already met over the worsening situation, recommending that the sale of spirits be banned at market stalls and food stands.
Legendary Czech actor Radoslav Brzobohatý has died at the age of 79. The actor, who starred in Czech New Wave films like Všichni Dobří rodáci (All My Compatriots) by Vojtěch Jasný and Ucho (The Ear) by Karel Kachyna, passed away just one day before he would have turned 80, his wife Hana Gregorová said. Earlier this year, Radoslav Brzobohatý was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the TýTý awards.
The opposition party Public Affairs has charged that the government’s budget proposal for 2013 overestimates expected revenues while doing little to support entrepreneurship and lowering spending. The party was a former coalition member before it splintered into Public Affairs and LIDEM. According to party leader Radek John, the proposed budget will hurt growth and drive the country deeper into recession.
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