Former operator of the security company G4S, Antonín Saleta, has been handed a 9-year prison sentence on Wednesday for his role in the ‘heist of the century’ case from 2002, when unknown men dressed as policemen stole 154 million crowns from a G4S security vehicle in Prague. State prosecutors claim that Mr. Saleta helped plan the heist, and made sure that the driver on duty did not put up any resistance to the perpetrators. Mr. Saleta, who pleaded innocent, bought an apartment shortly after the heist and moved with his family to Cuba and later Venezuela. He told the court that he was unaware that he was being investigated in the case as a fugitive since 2010. The Prague court ruled that Mr. Saleta also has to pay the 154 million crows stolen 11 years ago.
Cigarette makers Philip Morris are to discontinue production of some forms of the Start and Petra brands. Petra will disappear completely but the Petra Klasik will remain on the market, while regular Start will be renamed Start by Chesterfield and short Start cigarettes will continue to exist. Philip Morris, which dominates the local market, is retaining unchanged only one traditional Czech brand, Sparta. The reason for move is that sales of the “old school” lines have been falling faster than sales of cigarettes in general.
The average monthly salary increased by 322 crowns in the third quarter to 24,836 crowns. Adjusted for inflation, this is an increase of only a tenth of a percentage point, which basically signifies a stagnation of wages. Around two thirds of people employed in the Czech Republic, though, receive a lower salary than the average, with the median being currently around 21,000 crowns. Long-term stagnation and slight decreases in real wages is leading to a decrease of household spending, which the Czech National Bank was hoping to thwart with its recent intervention against the crown.
Police President Martin Červíček is refusing to step down, despite the reinstatement of his predecessor. The Czech Republic has had two police chiefs since Tuesday, when Petr Lessy was returned to the position by the minister of the interior, Martin Pecina. Mr. Lessy had been removed by the previous interior minister. However, a Prague court ruled that criminal charges of abuse of office and slander leveled against him were unfounded, paving the way for his reinstatement. Mr. Lessy is on holiday, awaiting the resolution of the situation.
Meteorologists have issued warnings of strong winds and snowdrifts for the north and east of the Czech Republic. Strong wind warnings will be in effect for the whole country starting on Thursday at 5 pm. The strongest winds, reaching up to 90 kilometers per hour and possibly 125 kilometers in the mountains, are expected on Friday and Saturday. It is also expected that during the same time period around 5 centimeters of snow will fall in the lowlands and up to 40 centimeters of new snow in the mountains.
The Slovak broadcasting regulator has issued the very first fine for the use of Czech language on television. The Joj television station, owned by MAC TV, ran an English-language weight-loss program with Czech dubbing, breaking the law that limits the amount of foreign language programming on Slovak television. Since this was not the channel’s first violation, the regulator decided to issue a 200 euro fine. The language law has been in effect since 2008, and only one other fine was previously issued to Komárno television for running advertisements in Hungarian.
A woman died near the north Bohemian town of Semily on Tuesday after ingesting an alcoholic drink containing a lethal amount of methanol. She is considered to be the 48th victim of the methanol poisoning outbreak, which began last September. At least 140 people suffered health problems as a result of methanol poisoning since then. During the first months of the outbreak, when the majority of the fatalities took place, the Czech government temporarily suspended the sale of hard liquor and subsequently introduced stricter legislation on its production and distribution.
The lower house of parliament failed to fill the last empty deputy chairman post for the fourth time on Wednesday morning. Two rounds of voting were held on Wednesday morning to select the fourth deputy chairman, but neither of the candidates running – TOP 09’s Petr Gazdík and chairman of the Dawn party Tomio Okamura – received enough votes. A week ago, MPs attempted to fill the post twice, choosing between Mr. Okamura and Miroslav Kalousek from TOP 09, but neither of them received enough votes then either. Parties will have to once again make nominations for this position for a new vote to take place.
A baby Palm Cockatoo was born for the first time at the Prague Zoo this fall. No other Czech zoo has been able to breed this rare bird, and the last time a Palm Cockatoo gave birth in Europe was three years ago. The Prague zoo began caring for this type of cockatoo in 2008, when a number of these birds were confiscated from smugglers on Czech territory. This bird is native to New Guinea and some parts of northern Australia and is currently on the list of threatened species.
The cabinet has approved a proposal from the Finance Ministry to issue bonds worth almost 210 billion crowns next year. The ministry plans to use these to buy up bonds already on the market, so the issue is not expected to increase state debt. The government also decided on Wednesday to add 7 billion crowns to next year’s budget for the State Agriculture Intervention Fund.
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