Czech President Václav Klaus on Tuesday strongly denied allegations that the system of granting presidential pardons was corrupt. Mr Klaus told reporters the allegations were “devastating”; corruption could not have been involved in the process, the president says, as it did not allow for any outside interference. The president also said he was angry with the weekly Respekt that broke the story; Mr Klaus labelled the publication as “criminal”.
The weekly reported on Monday the case of a former police officer who had been sentenced to jail on corruption charges; the policewoman told two witnesses a pardon “had been bought” for her, and she later received a pardon from President Václav Klaus.
In the light of the corruption allegations, the coalition TOP 09 party on Tuesday voiced a proposal to change the system of presidential pardons. TOP 09 MPs said any pardon by the president should in the future be confirmed by another official body, either the government or one of its ministers. The lower house should debate these proposals when it comes to dealing with an amendment to the constitution regarding direct presidential elections.
The Czech Republic should only adopt the euro if it is approved in a referendum, Prime Minister Petr Nečas told reporters after meeting Czech MEPs in Brussels on Tuesday. Mr Nečas said that since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, the eurozone has undergone a transformation into a transfer and debt union. The Czech Republic has no set benchmark for the adoption of the single European currency; however, the country is bound by its EU accession treaty to adopt the euro as soon as it meets all the criteria.
Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil on Tuesday denied claims that a thwarted mutiny in a number of Czech prisons last week was hatched by jailed members of the Berdych gang, the largest organized crime ring to go on trial in the country’s modern history. Mr. Pospíšil told the ČTK news agency that the speculation surrounding the alleged role of the Berdych gang in the mutiny was unsubstantiated. He also rejected claims that the mutiny was uncovered by the country’s counter intelligence service.
Czech media reported on Monday the country’s prison service had managed to prevent the biggest ever prison mutiny in the country’s history. Officials have confirmed that a mutiny was being planned in a number of prisons and that crude, hand-made weapons were found and confiscated from several dozen prisoners.
The ruling coalition agreed on Tuesday on how gambling will be taxed as of January 2012, clearing one of the sensitive parts of the government’s fiscal reform. The parties agreed that the Finance Ministry will prepare a new bill that will impose a corporate tax of 19 percent will on lottery firms whose turnover will also be subject to a 20 percent tax; the firms will also pay 20,000 crowns for each gambling machine. Part of the funds levied by the new tax will go directly to municipalities.
The anti-corruption unit of Czech police is investigating Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek over alleged corruption in allowing online betting, the daily Právo reported on Tuesday. The police are looking into allegations that Mr Kalousek, as finance minister for the Christian Democrats, in 2008 received several million crowns from the financial group Penta in return for allowing on-line gambling. Both Mr Kalousek, now a minister for the TOP 09 party, and a spokesman for the Penta group have denied the allegations,. The police revealed no further details of the investigation.
The town of Karlovy Vary, in the west of the country, has been asked to pay off bonds issued in 1924 that are now worth around 10 billion crowns, or nearly 550 million US dollars, a spokesman for the local town hall said on Tuesday. The request was filed by the controversial US lawyer Edward Fagan on behalf of the bonds’ owners. Karlovy Vary Mayor Petr Kulhánek is to meet Mr Fagan on Thursday to discuss the issue. The Czech National Bank has confirmed the existence of the bonds while the Finance Ministry said it needed more time to study the case.
Karlovy Vary, then known as Carlsbad, issued the bonds in 1924; their maturity was set at 30 years. Its German-speaking inhabitants were however expelled after the war, and the town was repopulated by Czechs.
The construction of Prague’s controversial Blanka road tunnel will cost at least 36 billion crowns, or more than 1.9 billion US dollars, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said on Tuesday. That is some 28 percent higher than the originally estimated costs of 28 billion crowns. The tunnel complex, which should channel through traffic away from the city centre, should be completed in 2014.
The project of the Blanka tunnel has repeatedly come under criticism as overpriced, and also due to lack of transparency when handing out construction work. The tunnel has also collapsed on several occasions, creating large craters in the city’s Stromovka park.
Czechs again top the list of Europe’s biggest shoplifters, according to data released by the UK agency Centre for Retail Research on Tuesday. The survey suggests that goods worth around 9.6 billion crowns have been stolen or lost in Czech shops this year, which is an increase of nearly 18 percent compared to last year. Shoplifting together with thefts by employees accounted for 1.53 percent of total retail sales, compared to 1.4 percent last year. The research shows that alcohol, cosmetics and electronics are among the items stolen most frequently.
Dozens of people on Tuesday protested plans to extend a local airstrip in Vodochody outside Prague into a new international airport. The protesters gathered outside the seat of the Central Bohemian regional administration, voicing their concerns about the possible negative impacts of the construction project. At the same time, some ten people showed up in support of the plan.
The region’s administration recently approved the extension, pursued by the financial group Penta. When completed, the new international airport, second to Prague’s Ruzyně, should serve up to 3.5 million passengers a year. However, the plans are strongly opposed by surrounding municipalities.
Czech football international Martin Fenin, currently a striker for FC Cottbus in the second German division, announced on Tuesday he was putting his career on hold to seek treatment for abuse of antidepressant drugs. His problems took a dramatic turn on Saturday when the 24-year-old footballer was hospitalized with haemorrhage; according to media speculation, he fell out of the window of his second-floor apartment after mixing medication with alcohol.
Martin Fenin moved from the Czech club Teplice to Germany’s top division Eintracht Franfkurt in 2008. He earned a spot on the national team but his career recently took a turn for the worse and he moved to FC Cottbus earlier this season.
Football livewire František Straka got a disappointing result on Monday in his first match since taking over as manager of Slavia Prague which lost 1:0 to city rivals Viktoria Žižkov. Earlier in the day some 200 fans protested against his taking over the team, citing his brief tenure as head coach with archrivals Sparta Prague. Mr Straka, who also managed the national squad for just one game in 2009, was a favourite with Sparta fans but Slavia and Sparta have a rivalry that goes back decades.
The current spell of sunny conditions will be replaced by wet and rainy weather by mid week, with the highest daytime temperatures ranging between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius.