The police have arrested Marek Dalík, a former close aide to then prime
minister Mirek Topolánek, in connection with alleged corruption in the
2009 purchase of Pandur armoured vehicles for the Czech military.
Prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová said on Monday Mr Dalík, who is the only
person detained so far, had been charged with attempted fraud.
The Czech government paid 14.4 billion crowns, or some 750 million US dollars, for 107 Austrian-made Pandur armoured personnel carriers; the deal has come under criticism as overpriced. Last year, a manager of the Austrian arms producer Steyr accused Mr Dalík of demanding an 18-million-euro bribe. The case has been under investigation by Czech and Austrian police since 2010.
Methanol-laced bootleg liquor has claimed its 28th victim. An autopsy confirmed on Monday that a 60 -year-old man, who died in his home near Uherské Hradiště in south-eastern Moravia last week, was killed by methanol. A police spokeswoman said a bottle of spirits was found in the man’s house but the police had not yet traced its source.
In related news, a government committee dealing with the crisis has called for the introduction of a general ban on spirit sales at streets stands. Speaking after the committee’s session on Monday, Health Minister Leoš Heger said the government would also consider introducing harsher fines for selling alcohol to minors as well as for counterfeiting excise stamps. Under the tougher rules, proprietors who breach the regulations could lose their licences. The committee has also called on spirits retailers not to dispose of alcohol without certified origin and wait until further instructions from the customs.
Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger on Monday dismissed the country’s chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít, who has since March been on an unpaid leave due to corruption charges. The police accused Mr Vít with abuse of power over his role in an overpriced IT tender. Minister Heger said he would propose the government to appoint the head of the Liberec region’s hygiene service, Vladimír Valenta the new chief hygiene officer. The absence of a chief hygiene officer during the recent methanol crisis was criticized by the opposition.
Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg has expressed appreciation of post-election developments in Georgia. Speaking after a meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Grigol Vashadze in Prague on Sunday, Mr Schwarzenberg welcomed the smooth transfer of power which matched the highest international democratic standards. Georgia is the only country in the region where the government was changed through democratic elections without manipulations, which is something the country needs to be congratulated for, Mr Schwarzenberg added. For his part, the Georgian foreign minister expressed gratitude that the Czech Republic’s continued support for his country’s Euro-Atlantic orientation.
The Czech unemployment rate grew slightly in September to reach 8.4 percent, up by 0.1 percent in the previous month, according to figures released by the Czech Statistical Office released on Monday. The number of people seeking employment grew by some 6,500 while there were around 4,000 fewer vacancies registered in that month. The lowest unemployment rate – around 3.5 percent – was recorded in Prague while the highest rates was seen in the north Bohemian district of Most with 15.8 percent and the district of Bruntál, in the north-east of the country, with 15.6 percent.
Former US vice-president Dick Cheney has slammed the administration of
Barack Obama for its decision to scrap plans to build an anti-missile
defence shied in the Czech Republic and Poland. Speaking at a conference
Prague on Monday, Mr Cheney said that in light of recent developments in
the Middle East, the treaties between the US, Czech and Polish governments
to build the system were “very good”.
Dick Cheney served as vice president during the terms of George W. Bush whose administration was planning to build parts of its anti-missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. The plans were abandoned after Barack Obama took office in 2009.
Profits in Czech agriculture more than doubled from 7.6 billion crowns in 2010 to 17.1 in 2011, according to revised data from the Czech Statistical Office; the revised numbers are around 700 million crowns higher than the preliminary result made public at end of February. The earlier result was already a record high. The Czech agriculture sector has generated profits since 2004 when the Czech Republic joined the European Union, mainly thanks to EU subsidies. The value of production in agriculture expressed in current basic prices increased by almost 16 percent compared with 2010 to 118.9 billion crowns. Crop cultivation grew by more than 23 percent, while livestock production dropped by 6.2 percent.
The Czech Institute for Drug Control on Monday ordered the recall of one batch of children’s hexa vaccine, produced by the firm GlaxoSmithKline, over a risk of microbiological contamination. The decision came after the company reported that a component of the Infanrix Hexa vaccine had been produced in an environment that was microbiologically contaminated; however, the firm said no tests confirmed the contamination of the vaccine itself. GlaxoSmithKline is the sole supplier of the vaccine to Czech health care providers; the code of the batch to be recalled was given as A21CB191B.
The Czech low-cost carrier Smart Wings announced on Monday it would suspend its regular Ostrava-Paris flights for the winter season. The suspension will begin on November 5 and the firm said it would resume flights between Ostrava and the French capital in the spring. The carrier also said it was planning to introduce new connections between Prague and Miami in the US.