Criminal police have said that four of eight members of a gang arrested
last Thursday for suspected involvement in the ‘methanol affair’,
wanted to defraud the state of some 200 million crowns in unpaid taxes.
According to the head of the anti-organised crime unit, Robert Šlachta,
the police – in its sweep of arrests last week – impacted the top
echelon of a gang involved in the sale of bootleg liquor in the Czech
Republic. Among those arrested last week are businessman Radek Březina,
said by the media to have ties to the Drak liquor company, and Robert
Sedlařík, the head of the Verdana distribution firm. A court at the
weekend ordered that they and two others be remanded in custody.
Earlier, a warehouse owned by Verdana, was found to contain bottles of liquor laced with 50 percent methanol. Methanol poisoning, beginning in mid-September, claimed 30 lives in the Czech Republic. The bottles were supposedly tainted to increase product volume and profits.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Petr Nečas and Robert Fico, as well as members of their respective cabinets, met in Uherské Hradiště, as well as Trenčin, on Monday – a day after the 94th anniversary of Czechoslovakia, and to mark this year's 20th anniversary of the break-up of the federation. The meeting was largely seen as an opportunity to reinforce strong ties. Mr Fico praised communication with his Czech counterpart on EU questions and other topics. A number of areas considered key for Mr Nečas’ cabinet at the meeting included security, energy policy and transport. Close cooperation between the countries’ armed forces was also discussed.
A teacher at a high school in Rakovník is in serious condition on Monday after reportedly being stabbed by one of her students. She had to be transported by helicopter to a Prague hospital. Considering the age of the suspect, a minor, a police spokeswoman confirmed the incident but gave no additional details. Likewise, the school’s principal Luděk Štíbr declined to comment. It has not been reported whether a knife was smuggled into school or some other object was used; the teacher was reportedly stabbed from behind.
The chairman of the Czech Doctors’ Union, Martin Engel, has revealed that hospital doctors across the Visegrad 4 (which comprises the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) will stage a symbolic event on November 20 to protest current salaries and other conditions within the healthcare sector. Speaking to journalists on Monday, Mr Engel said the protest would last roughly half-an-hour and would not affect hospitals from functioning fully. Doctors are reportedly unhappy over salaries (wanting to earn as much as three times the monthly average) and – in the Czech Republic – are against what they see as ‘resignation’ by the Health Ministry allegedly allowing health insurance companies to dictate terms of treatment and coverage. In 2011, Czech doctors took part in a protest campaign threatening to quit unless they received pay hikes. Doctors in state hospitals now earn average salaries of more than 57,500 crowns a month; the average monthly salary in the country last year was less than 25,000.
On the occasion of the 94th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia on Sunday, President Václav Klaus decorated 22 individuals in recognition of their merit to the state at a ceremony at Prague Castle. The highest Czech decoration, the Order of the White Lion, was awarded to two WWII veterans, Alexander Beer and Vasil Korolov; the president awarded the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk to former political prisoners Leopold Färber, Mons. Karel Jaroslav Fořt, Jaromír Jarmara and others, while the Medal of Merit was handed out to, among others, scientists Jiří Drahoš and Václav Havlíček. The president also decorated former footballer Ivo Viktor and javelin champion Barbora Špotáková.
In his annual address marking the anniversary of independent Czechoslovakia, President Václav Klaus warned that the Czech state has grown weaker yet has, at the same time, swelled or become bloated. The state and its laws, institutions and representatives were no longer respected, the president suggested, particularly by the younger generation. In his last such address as the head-of-state, Mr Klaus called for a reform of public finances but warned of unrealistic expectations from the EU. In his speech, he repeatedly criticized the media for – in his view – forwarding the interests of lobby groups and NGOs, as well as for ridiculing the state.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg missed Sunday's ceremony at Prague Castle where President Václav Klaus, for the last time as head of state, presents state honours and decorations to distinguished personalities. A spokesman for the prime minister said Mr Nečas could not attend the event for health reasons while Mr Schwarzenberg told the news website lidovky.cz he was out of Prague for the day, adding it didn’t really matter whether politicians attended the ceremony.
Twenty Czech Jewish Holocaust survivors met in Israel on Sunday to remember their wartime fates more than 70 years ago. The meeting was organised by the Prague Military History Institute. In 1939, 150 Jewish children were passed on to foster families in Denmark, where they escaped the Holocaust. Those taking part in Sunday’s gathering in the small town of Neve Ilan (near Jerusalem) had not seen each other for 70 years, living in Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, and the US. The last time they saw each other they were between 14 -16 years of age. Attendees of the meeting were accompanied by relatives, including grandchildren, some of whom learnt for the first time about their Czech roots, the news agency ČTK said.
Christian Democrat Euro MP Zuzana Roithová has officially filed candidacy papers to run in the country’s upcoming presidential election, joining fellow competitors such as former prime minister Jan Fischer, former prime minister Miloš Zeman, deputy head of the Senate Přemysl Sobotka, and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Mrs Roithová received around 81,000 signatures backing her candidacy – some 31 thousand more than needed. The first round of the first direct presidential election in the country’s history will take place on January 11th and 12th.
A macaque monkey that escaped from a mini-zoo in Poland and slipped into the Czech Republic at the beginning of September has been recaptured, local police have revealed. The macaque was caught after returning repeatedly to a village in the area of Náchod where it received food from a local inhabitant. Police spokeswoman Eva Prachařová said food given had helped the monkey survive but suggested that conditions – including fresh snow at the weekend – had been tough.