Prague’s Municipal Court has found fugitive businessman Radovan Krejčíř guilty of tax evasion, passing an 11-year prison sentence and a three-billion-crown fine. Friday’s verdict issued in absentia is a combined sentence for Mr Krejčíř’s current and previous convictions for tax and securities fraud as well as embezzlement. Mr Krejčíř escaped from the Czech Republic in 2005 and has been living in South Africa since 2007, where he has applied for refugee status.
After two years of preparations, the Prague Stock Exchange switched to a different electronic trading system on Friday, causing some problems for traders and clients. Prague’s electronic securities trading migrated to the German Xetra trading system, linked up via the Vienna Stock Exchange during the previous night. According to the online news server iHned, there were numerous glitches in the first hours of trading, due to the limited capacities of the data link. Many people said that they could no longer see some stocks in their electronic portfolios. The problem was fixed before noon.
The anti-rocket system on the CASA military aircrafts that the Czech Defense Ministry purchased from a Spanish company is still not functional, the ministry informed on Friday. Testing of the planes was supposed to be completed by the end of the week, but the malfunction will prevent the planes from being used by the Czech mission in Afghanistan, as was originally planned. Other allied armies have already begun using the CASA aircrafts without the anti-rocket system. The purchase of the planes was highly controversial, and there is still an ongoing investigation into the former Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanová and her deputy over possible corruption.
Visitors of the many outdoor Christmas markets around the Czech Republic will not be able to enjoy the traditional rum-based hot drinks like punč and grog this holiday season. The authorities have announced that they will strictly enforce a law prohibiting non-licensed vendors from selling drinks with alcohol content higher than 15 percent. In the past, the police turned a blind eye to such practices at the festive Christmas markets, but following this year’s methanol-crisis which claimed 37 lives, they have decided to take a harder line. The sale of hot drinks will be restricted to mulled wine or tea.
Prague’s city council did not approve a change in the urban plan that would allow for trams to run along Wenceslas square up to Vinohradská street. The opposition Social Democrats and some Civic Democratic councilors voted against the change on Thursday, after the city assembly gave its approval earlier this week. The old tramline on Wenceslas square was suspended in the 1980’s.
A large exhibition of the Czech modernist painter František Kupka opens on Friday at the National Gallery in Prague. Entitled The Journey to Amorpha, the exhibition follows the painter’s path toward non-figurative art. The exhibit is based on Kupka’s paintings that were first exhibited in Paris in the early 20th century and are considered the first public presentation of abstract visual art. The exhibition, held in cooperation with Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other institutions runs until March 2013.
The Czech Republic does not support the Palestinian Authority's bid to upgrade its status at the UN to a non-member observer state, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the news website lidovky.cz on Thursday. In the upcoming vote at the UN General Assembly, the Czech delegate will vote against a resolution requesting the upragrade, Mr Schwarzenberg said, arguing such position was in line with the Czech Republic's long standing policy on the issue. According to media reports, some two thirds of UN member states, including China, Russia, France, Austria, and others, pledged their support for the bid.
The opposition Social Democrats have again vowed to abolish the government’s overhaul of the pension system as soon as they come to power. Speaking at a conference in Prague on Thursday, the party’s economic expert, Jan Mládek said they would abolish individual pension accounts managed by private funds as introduced by the reform. Mr Mládek said a Social Democrat cabinet would look for inspiration to Hungary where private pension savings were nationalized in 2010.
President Václav Klaus on Thursday formally received the resignation of Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš, of the LIDEM party, who had earlier announced he would step down on Monday. Mr Dobeš joined the cabinet in July 2011 but found himself under pressure to step down from within his own party over problems of a new system of central vehicle registry. The coalition parties are yet to reach agreement on the new transport minister.
The mandate and immunity committee of the Czech lower house has issued a recommendation that deputies lift the immunity of MP Roman Pekárek. The committee reached a unanimous decision on the matter, chairman Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters on Thursday. Mr. Pekárek was in the process of appealing a six-year jail term for corruption when he gained a seat in the Chamber of Deputies due to the resignation of a party colleague from the Civic Democrats. He has rejected calls for him to quit the lower house. It will vote on his fate in its next session, which starts on Tuesday.