The police have arrested and charged two men who knowingly distributed a methanol mixture that caused poisonings of at least 67 people in the Czech Republic, Police President Martin Červíček and state prosecutor Roman Kafka announced Monday at a press conference. The main suspect – a forty-two year-old man from Ostrava - made a full confession on Friday night saying that he and his accomplice prepared a lethal methanol and ethanol mixture that they then distributed through a middleman to liquor producers. According to Mr Kafka, the main motivation for his actions was financial gain. Police President Červíček warned that 15,000 liters of noxious methanol-laced alcohol had entered distribution, but not all of it has been accounted for yet. Charges have been brought against 42 people in connection to the distribution of methanol-laced liquor, which has killed 25 people in the Czech Republic. Twenty two of them are currently in jail.
President Klaus has vetoed the government’s pension reform bill. The bill introduced a so-called “second pillar” to the pension system which would enable Czechs to send part of their compulsory pension insurance contributions to private accounts as of next year. The president is concerned that there is no consensus over the reform among experts, politicians and the broad public. He also cautioned against introducing such a reform in an uncertain economic climate. The opposition-controlled Senate vetoed the same bill earlier, but the veto was overturned by the lower house of parliament in early September. The bill will now go back to the lower house for another vote in which the governing coalition would have to find 101 votes to override the president’s veto.
A 55-year-old man died of methanol poisoning in the north Moravian town of Havířov on Monday. The man was admitted to hospital on 3 September in critical condition. He is the 25th victim of the recent outbreak of methanol poisonings, and the 15th in the Moravia-Silesian region. In the meantime, a hospital in the nearby city of Ostrava admitted yet another methanol patient, in serious, but not critical condition. The patient was administered the Norwegian antidote drug Fomepizol.
Representatives of the government, trade unions and employers did not come to an agreement over the proposal for next year’s budget during tripartite negotiations on Monday. Union representatives rejected the budget proposals, and business representatives have reservations about it. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said the government will send the budget proposal to the lower house in its current state along with the statements from the trade union and employers’ representatives. These were the first such negotiations in the past half a year, and there were doubts about whether they would take place at all after a spat between Prime Minister Petr Nečas and the head of the Bohemian-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions last week. Trade union representatives have walked out of tripartite negotiations a number of times in the past.
Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Monday that the number of cases of methanol poisonings is beginning to dwindle. Minister Heger announced that as of today, 18 people were in hospitals being treated for methanol poisoning and that only two people were hospitalized over the weekend. Since the beginning of the outbreak, 67 people were confirmed to have been intoxicated with methyl alcohol.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek announced on Monday that the ministry is prepared to change or delay tax advances for alcohol producers who have been negatively affected by the ban on hard liquor. A ban on the sale of alcohol with 20 or more percent alcohol content was instituted on 14 September, and a ban on exports six days later. The government is currently preparing necessary measures to allow newly produced alcohol to enter onto the market again.
Criminal police have cracked down on a gang of methamphetamine producers and marihuana growers in southern Moravia in the past few days. The police announced Monday they have ten suspects and six are already under prosecution. The main suspects were arrested in mid-September. Two methamphetamine labs and over 60 marihuana plants were discovered during raids. This is one of the largest drug operations uncovered in the region in the past decade. According to investigators, the drug producers were legally purchasing the medicine to produce the methamphetamine in the Polish city of Kladsko.
The Golden Bull of Sicily, one of the founding documents of the mediaeval Czech state, will be displayed at the National Archive in Prague to mark the 800th anniversary of its issuing. The bull, issued by Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1212, confirmed the royal title obtained by Ottokar I of Bohemia and granted him and his heirs the hereditary title of the Kings of Bohemia. The document will be displayed on Thursday until the end of the week.
A primary school in the town of Žďárec, that former Czechoslovak and Czech President Václav Havel had attended in childhood, may be renamed after the former dissident who passed away at the end of last year. The town council will discuss the change soon, and the mayor believes all the paperwork might be completed by the end of the school year. The Vysočina region so far has no public institutions or places that are named after Václav Havel.