It has emerged that the police investigation also concerns at least two influential lobbyists, Roman Janoušek and Ivo Ritting. Mr. Janoušek is currently at his summer residence in Croatia, but the police reportedly raided his Prague office on Wednesday night. Investigators have also asked Prague City Hall for a copy of all contracts signed with Janoušek in the past.
In a public statement to the nation, Prime Minister Petr Necas said he saw
no reason to resign from office in the wake of a police raid on the Office
of the Government late Wednesday. The prime minister said his conscience
was clear and he had seen no evidence implicating those of his associates
who were detained in the night raid. He called on the police and State
Attorney’s Office in Olomouc to clarify the reasons behind the extensive
police operation in which several people were detained, among others the
prime minister’s closest aide Jana Nagyova and the head of the Office of
the Government Lubomir Poul. The prime minister said that from the
information he had received in the course of the day it appeared that the
case revolved around three rebel Civic Democrat MPs who were suspected of
having accepted bribes in return for giving up their seats in Parliament.
The prime minister called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday evening to debate the crisis.
The Czech Republic has moved up by seven notches to 14th place in KPMG’s global chart of VAT rates. This is due to an increase in the basic VAT rate to 21 percent in January of this year, while the average global basic VAT rate is 15.55 percent. The European average VAT rate is 20.5 percent. The tax burden on Czechs is thus higher than the global, as well as European average.
President Milos Zeman has scheduled a meeting on Friday with the prime minister, the police chief and opposition leader Bohuslav Sobotka to discuss the government crisis. The president’s office said Mr. Zeman would not be commenting on developments until he had received reliable information on the case.
A spokesman for the police’s organized crime unit on Thursday confirmed
what he called an extensive police operation which he said was still
underway and the fact that the police had made several arrests. He said
operation, involving hundreds of police officers, was being supervised by
the State Attorney’s Office in Olomouc and all the steps undertaken were
made within the bounds of the law. In view of the ongoing investigation he
refused to provide further details.
According to the internet news site iDnes.cz the police have charged eight people in connection with the investigation. Police have refused to confirm the news saying more information will be released on Friday.
Over 230,000 people have signed a petition for the nomination of Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved over than 600 Czechoslovak Jewish children from certain death by transporting them to Britain before the breakout of World War Two, for the Nobel Peace Prize. The petition, organized by students from Open Gate grammar school near Prague, will be delivered to Nobel Committee secretary Geir Lundestad in Oslo on Friday. The speaker of the Czech lower house Miroslava Němcová submitted Nicolas Winton´s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in January for the third successive year. Mr. Winton turned 104 in May and the Nobel Prize can only be awarded to a living person.
The news has evoked an outcry on the Czech political scene with the opposition demanding an explanation from the prime minister at a session of the lower house on Friday. Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said the reports coming through were extremely grave and needed to be clarified as soon as possible. The party leadership will meet on Thursday to consider further action.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute has lifted the flood warning it issued in the regions of central and south Bohemia, Ústí in north Bohemia) and Plzeň (west Bohemia) on Monday. Three towns still face potential danger from floods: Děčín and Ústí nad Labem, on the Labe River, as well as the UNESCO-listed Český Krumlov in south Bohemia, on the Vltava River, ČTK reported. However, water levels have fallen markedly and heavy precipitation is not expected in the country over the next few days. Extensive floods hit Prague and most regions in Bohemia, the western part of the Czech Republic, last week. The floods claimed lives and saw thousands of people evacuated from their homes.
Culture Minister Alena Hanáková (TOP 09-STAN) confirmed on Wednesday that she will step down at the end of June. The embattled minister had faced increasing criticism both from the opposition and expert circles; speculation that she would step down had intensified for some time. The minister told journalists she no longer felt she had the support of her party; she took the decision after meeting earlier with TOP 09 head Karel Schwarzenberg. Jiří Hlaváč, a former dean at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (AMU) is being mentioned as a possible successor.
The Czech Republic’s chances of reaching the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil received a boost on Tuesday, when one of their rivals for second place in Group B suffered a surprise defeat. Denmark’s 0:4 home defeat to the unfancied Armenia means the Czechs are now three points ahead of Denmark and would likely come second – and reach the playoffs – is they beat Malta, Armenia and Bulgaria. Italy top the group and are expected to win an automatic qualification place.
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