The new owner of a 12th century castle in the village of Ralsko in northern Bohemia has been revealed as Czech businessman Milan Baier. 800 square metres around the site were recently put up for sale by the army and forest service, which hitherto administered the land. A controversial tender process ensued with an anonymous bidder emerging victorious, despite the efforts of Ralsko locals to acquire the site. In total five bidders vied for the site, with a minimum asking price of 120,000 crowns; Ralsko authorities were reportedly willing to offer 150,000 but were told that the winning bidder had offered substantially more. Milan Baier, a local from nearby Mimoň, was ultimately revealed as the new owner and has promised to keep the site accessible to the public and to consult with local citizens as repairs are carried out. But locals remain unhappy and are seeking to overturn the sale and have reportedly even appealed to Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra for help, arguing that such a historical site should remain in public hands.
A stolen 18th century baroque statue depicting an angel has been returned to the Church of St Nicholas in the Moravian town of Březová by the Czech Minister of Culture Alena Hanáková. The figure was stolen from the church nine years ago and ultimately found its way to Italy. It was there that authorities managed to recover it in the hands of an organised crime network following an investigation involving Interpol. The figure was handed by the Italian authorities to Hanáková during a trip to the country in May. 60 other works of art were also reportedly found in the hands of the criminal gang – many from churches across Europe. According to the Ministry of Culture, the statue was handed back to church representatives on Wednesday.
Randy Blythe, a member of the US heavy metal group Lamb of God, has been released from custody by authorities in Prague. The singer was arrested on June 27 as he arrived at Prague’s Ruzyňe airport on suspicion of manslaughter. Specifically, he was accused of throwing a fan off the stage during a concert two years ago. The fan later died of head injuries. Blythe arrived in June to play a concert, which was subsequently aborted following the arrest. A district court in Prague 8 then determined that Blythe be remanded in custody until his trial; this decision was overturned on appeal, with the singer now subject to a 8 million crown bail pending trial. Prosecutors had feared that Blythe, who was released on Thursday afternoon, may attempt to leave the country if released.
Some 200 Romanies living in a ghetto on the outskirts of Ostrava have been ordered to move out of their flats for health reasons. The local waterworks cut water supplies to the area last week over unpaid bills and there are reportedly problems with the sewage system. The local authorities say the flats are no longer habitable due to the atrocious living conditions. The owner of the property says he could not undertake maintenance because a growing number of tenants were not paying rent. There are 44 families living in the ghetto and many have refused to move out. The city hall has so far found alternate housing for 26 families and is looking for means to provide for the others as well.
In an analysis of a new book by the Czech-born former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the UK-based Economist magazine noted that Albright fears “small-mindedness, corruption and isolationism, be it from the EU or globalisation” in the run up to the Czech presidential elections of 2013. The book, released in April, entitled “Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War” reflects on Albright’s Czech roots. The former Secretary of State is quoted as saying of the modern Czech Republic that: “This is an abnormal summer. After the Velvet Revolution, the Czechs thought it would all be much easier. And they so wanted to be a part of the west. Now they are more confused than I would have thought.” She also lamented the lack of “intellectual vibrancy” that she believes once existed during the 1968 Prague Spring or New Republic eras.
The Czech women’s doubles pair Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Hradecká have guaranteed the Czech Republic another Olympic medal by reaching the finals of their respective tournament. The pair advanced with a 6-1, 7-6 straight sets victory over US top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. In the finals, the pair will either face Russia’s Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova or the famous US sisters Serena and Venus Williams.
The government’s assumption that a VAT hike would help fill state coffers and reduce the gap in public finances has proved wrong, Lidove Noviny writes in its Thursday edition. According to statistics VAT revenue in the first 7 months of this year has been the same or even lower than in the same period last year. The paper says the finance ministry has refused to comment and statistics offer a simple explanation Czechs are spending less. Although the prices of goods and services went up by 3.5 percent as of January, people paid 2.1 percent less for consumer goods and services. As of January 1st,2012, the Czech Republic increased the lower VAT rate from 10% to 14%.
Senator Vladimir Dryml has left the ranks of the Social Democratic Party in view of joining the Party of Citizen’s Rights set up by the former Social Democrat prime minister Milos Zeman. Announcing the news at a press briefing in Prague on Thursday the senator subjected his former party to scathing criticism saying it was rife with corruption, particularly at the regional level. Dryml is the second senator to swap the Social Democratic party in favour of Milos Zeman’s Party of Citizen’s Rights – senator Jirina Rippelova made the same move last week. Mr. Zeman’s new centre-left party is not represented in Parliament.
Police have filed charges against 13 members of the so-called Tofl gang of former police officers who are suspected of blackmailing an entrepreneur in south Moravia. It is not yet clear where the case will be judged. The head of the investigative squad has recommended the case should not go to a Brno or Olomouc court where the former officers could have contacts. The name of the gang is derived from its former boss Michal Tofl who was killed by a hit-man in June of 2010. The police have arrested and charged three men in connection with the murder; if found guilty they could face up to 20 years in jail.
A group of 34 Japanese children affected by radiation from the 2011 Fukushima disaster have arrived in the Czech Republic for therapy. They are to be treated in the Olivovna Children's Hospital located in the town of Říčany, just south-east of Prague. During their time at the facility, the patients are expected to undergo not only treatment but also a variety of well-being programmes such as swimming and horse riding.