The police have seized cash, accounts, houses as well as luxury vehicles worth over 72 million crowns in a major operation against fuel tax evasion, a spokeswoman for the Czech tax authority said. The police have also confiscated 270,000 litres of fuel in the operation which took two months to prepare and discovered cases of tax evasion worth 750,000 million crowns; no one was arrested in the clampdown, the spokeswoman said.
The police have cracked down on a drug-smuggling ring in a nation-wide operation involving close to 300 officers. Nineteen people were arrested of whom thirteen have so far been charged with the production and trafficking of illegal substances. The operation involved house searches around the country during which the police uncovered three illegal laboratories and confiscated large quantities of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, hash and marijuana.
The number of homeless people in the Czech Republic is rising, according to the Czech Salvation Army. The organization says that according to its estimates there are now approximately 30,000 homeless people in the country and another 70 thousand people are at threat of losing their homes. The main reasons why people end up in the street are growing indebtedness, loss of employment, high rents and divorces or break-ups. The plight of such people is made worse by the fact that the Czech Republic does not as yet have social housing. The government recently approved the country’s first national strategy against homelessness.
The non-governmental, non-profit organisation Post Bellum, which documents important historical phenomena of the 20th century through eyewitness accounts and memories, on Sunday handed out its annual Memory of the Nation awards. This year’s recipients are Holocaust survivor, Professor Felix Kolmer, František Wiendl, who helped smuggle 28 people out of communist Czechoslovakia, and leading members of the anti-communist dissent Jiří Stránský and Dana Němcová. Since it was establish in 2001 Post Bellum has collected the life stories of 3,500 people and passed them on to the broad public through radio and TV reports and exhibitions.
Czechs mark the Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy on Sunday, a public holiday. In Prague’s Národní třída, top Czech officials, lawmakers, freedom fighters and other public figures are to pay tribute to students who triggered the Velvet Revolution of 1989, eventually toppling the communist regime. Another event, held at a student dorm in the centre of the capital, commemorate the Nazi oppression of Czech university students in 1939. Speaking at the student halls, Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok told the gathering the legacy of November 17 must be passed on to younger generations.
Around 150 right-wing extremists have gathered in Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Sunday, the 24th anniversary of the fall of communism. Supporters of the extremist Workers’ Party of Social Justice criticized the post-communist regime, the EU as well as alleged limits to the freedom of speech. Several hundred metres away, some 500 people came together to protest against right-wing extremism, and what they believe is an abuse of the anniversary. The police are keeping both group separate, the news agency ČTK reported.
In related news, the National Museum is ion Sunday holding a collection of memorabilia from the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The museum is asking members of the public to donate photographs, video footage, sound recordings, etc. in the museum’s building on top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square. The museum also wants to record people’s personal memories from that time. Selected items will be featured at next year’s exhibition marking 25 years since the fall of communism in the country.
The first ever nationwide collection of food, held in 111 shops and supermarkets across the Czech Republic on Saturday, was a success, organizers said. In some stores, up to 700 kilos of durable foodstuffs were donated, according to Pavlína Kalousová from the group Business for Society which organized the collection. Shoppers were encouraged to donate some of the food they just bought; the donations will be handed to homeless shelters, retirement homes and families in financial crisis. The total amount of donated food will be released later on Sunday.
The anticorruption unit of the Czech police has charged two people over a public contract handed out by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry last year, the news agency ČTK reported. The men, one of whom served as a ministry official, the other as a court-appointed expert, face charges of abuse of power and fraud, among others. Prosecutors say the men manipulated a tender to improve the system of welfare payments; if the deal had not been stopped by the anti-monopoly office, the state would suffer a loss of around one billion crowns, a spokesman for the prosecution said.
A newborn boy was discovered in a baby hatch in Teplice, in north Bohemia, in the early hours of Sunday, the founder of the Czech baby box system said. The boy was wrapped in a towel and had his umbilical cord tied with a shoe lace, doctors said. The newborn received the name Milan; he became the 95th baby retrieved from baby boxes since their introduction in the Czech Republic in 2006. There are now around 60 baby hatches in various places in the country.