President Václav Klaus on Tuesday signed a series of bills related to the government’s tax reform. The new legislation introduces a joint collection authority where people will pay their taxes along with health and social insurance; it replaces the 15-percent income tax calculated from the so-called super-gross salary with a new 19-percent tax calculated from base salary; the bills also include an amendment to the Czech legislation on lotteries which gives local authorities more power in regulating gambling. The government’s tax reform is set to come into force in 2015; however, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek would like to amend it so that it comes into effect a year earlier.
The Czech authorities will appeal against a Swiss court’s decision to reject their bid to become a party in the ongoing criminal case against former managers of the mining firm Mostecká uhelná, the newspaper Lidové noviny said on Tuesday, quoting a spokesman for the Czech Finance Ministry. The Swiss federal court in Bellinzone rejected the Czech bid on December 19, according to a local press report. The Czech authorities have ten days to appeal.
Six Czechs and one Belgian citizen have been charged with money laundering and other financial crimes in the case of Mostecká uhelná. The firm was privatized in 1999 but Swiss prosecutors believe the managers paid for the firm’s shares with money siphoned from the company, embezzling billions of crowns. The Swiss authorities estimate the damages to the Czech Republic at 3.4 billion crowns.
The police might look into the Czech communist party chairman’s condolence to North Korean communists on the death of the dictator Kim Jong-il, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Tuesday. The paper quotes Czech Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil as saying the authorities should determine whether Vojtěch Filip, the head of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, broke the law by expressing sympathies to the late North Korean leader. In his letter of condolence, Mr Vojtěch said Kim Jong-il sacrificed himself for the well-being of the people of North Korea, adding he believed the North Korean communist party would continue leading the heroic struggle for the defence of socialism. If convicted of breaching the Czech law prohibiting support for totalitarian movements and regimes, the Czech communist leader would face up to three years in jail.
The Czech ambassador to Thailand, and former general secretary of the country’s foreign ministry, Milan Sedláček, has been charged with fraud and will be tried in a Czech court, along with two other people, the news website tyden.cz reported on Tuesday. Mr Sedláček faces accusations of embezzling some 1.5 million crowns for seminars that were supposed to take place in China, Singapore and Hong Kong in 2008; however, the police suspect the events never took place. The ambassador has been recalled to the Czech Republic pending trial.
More than 55,000 Czechs – both at home and living abroad – have added their signatures to a call for Prague’s international airport to be renamed after the late ex-president Václav Havel. According to the news website idnes.cz, the idea has received backing even from Mr Havel’s family. However, Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, whose office supervises the airport’s board of directors, said a thorough debate was needed before a decision could be reached. Former president Václav Havel died at the age of 75 on December 18 after a protracted illness. In neighbouring Poland, the northern city of Gdansk named one of its streets after Mr Havel on December 23, the day of his funeral.
Czech Airlines will add another 71 return flights to Russia in the holiday season, a spokeswoman for the carrier told reporters on Tuesday. The first extraordinary flight will leave Prague on December 28, the last on January 12. 47 of the extra seasonal flights will go to and from Moscow; other destinations include Moscow, St Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg, and Samara.
The Czech Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a woman last year who attempted to kill her five-year-old daughter by poisoning her with anti-freeze, and confirmed a 25-year sentence handed to the woman by a lower-instance court. In August 2010, the woman gave her daughter a mix of tea and anti-freeze after the child returned from a weekend with her father. The woman tried to fabricate an alibi, and called the ambulance with delay. The girl suffered serious kidney damage.
Most Czechs do not consider churches to be useful institutions, according to a new survey by the STEM agency released on Tuesday. A great majority of the 40 percent which said the opposite are believers, the poll suggested. The share of people who think churches are useful has not changed much in recent years; last year, some 42 percent of people surveyed said they considered churches to be useful.
A 50-year-old Czech citizen was arrested at the airport in Buenos Aires several weeks ago with nearly 250 live animals he was reportedly trying to smuggle out of the country, the Czech News Agency reported. Airport staff found 247 live snakes, snails, lizards, turtles and frogs in his luggage, some of them protected species. The man, who was later released on bail, faces up to 10 years in prison.
Czech basketball player Jan Veselý has missed the premiere of the Washington Wizards in the shortened season of the NBA due to a hip injury. Although the injury is reportedly not serious, the 21-year-old Czech player missed Monday’s game which saw the Wizards lose to the New Jersey Nets 84:90. Jan Veselý, the Wizards’ top pick in the NBA draft, might appear in Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks.
The next few days will be overcast with frequent fog. Daytime highs should range between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.