An auditor's investigation into claims of bribery and kickbacks at the German carmaker Volkswagen Group has detailed more than $1 million in company money that two former executives spent on luxury trips and parties. AP reports that an audit by KPMG International says Helmuth Schuster, a board member of Volkswagen's Czech subsidiary Skoda, and a high-ranking member of the personnel department, took luxury trips, hosted private parties and used VW money to pay for it, the automaker said. Volkswagen called in prosecutors earlier this year to clear up allegations that former managers set up fake companies in the Czech Republic and India, to defraud local authorities seeking business with the carmaker.
Police shut down a neo-Nazi concert in the northern Bohemian town of Zlata Olesnice on Saturday due to the band's used of racist lyrics. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said that twelve people had been detained and that several face charges. The gathering had been booked as a private birthday party. When called to the scene, police found the organisers were charging a cover charge at the door and a skinhead band was performing. Police seized tee-shirts, badges, baseball caps, and electronic media with extremist slogans or content.
Meanwhile, far-right extremist briefly protested outside the French Embassy on Saturday, defying a ban on the rally by Prague authorities, AP reports. The National Party said it had planned the "protest against black violence" and what it called "racial terror in France." Prague's City Hall this week banned the demonstration, saying its aim would be to incite racial hatred as its organizers had voiced opposition to violence "committed by immigrants of non-French origin, mainly from Africa" when announcing the event. Roughly a dozen party members gathered in defiance of the ban, and briefly displayed banners that read "Islam in Europe leads to terrorism in the streets" and "Black racism" before they left. Party leader Jan Skacel said they were opposed to immigration because immigrants were unable to assimilate and their foreign cultures were a source of conflicts. France has been plagued by two weeks of unrest mainly in poor suburbs, marked by nightly car torchings and clashes between gangs of youths and police.
Doing business in the Czech Republic poses few risks for the foreign investor, but corruption and bureaucracy remain problematic, the British analytical firm Control Risks says in its annual flagship publication RiskMap 2006. The report predicts that the main opposition Civic Democrats will win the June 2006 parliamentary elections but will fail to secure a majority in the 200-member lower house. RiskMap therefore expects the ruling Social Democrats to remain in power as part of a coalition. Whatever the outcome of the elections, the Control Risks firm expects no major reforms before June and a stable economic and business climate.
Four prisoners from a low-security in prison in Odolov, East Bohemia, escaped while on an outing Saturday evening. Two of the prisoners have already turned themselves in. Prison director Jiri Benes said that the other two still at large were serving time for economic crimes and were not considered dangerous. The incident comes less than a week after two convicted murderers escaped from a high-security prison in Plzen, West Bohemia. One remains at large; the other was apprehended in Germany on Friday.
A major Czech brewery has offered 160 litres of beer, the average yearly consumption of each citizen, to each member of the Czech football squad irrespective of whether the team beat Norway to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, AFP reports. The Czechs beat Norway 1-0 away in the first leg of their qualifying play-off on Saturday. The Czech players will only be able to take up the offer of free beer after the second match against Norway this Wednesday. The Czech Republic has never qualified for the World Cup, but the former Czechoslovakia reached the finals in 1934 (losing to Italy) and 1962 (beaten by Brazil) and the quarter-finals in 1990.
Grey skies and light rain is expected over the next couple of days, with daytime highs of 8 degrees Celsius.
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