The Prague City Court has sentenced Petr Smetka, the founder of the bankrupt construction company H- System, to 12 years in prison for fraud, harming creditors and embezzlement. The verdict was handed down after a trial of almost 17 months. Prison sentences were also given to another three managers of H-System, which deprived 1,200 people of a total of almost 1.2 billion crowns they had invested in a housing construction scheme. Jaroslav Vitek, Jaroslav Elias and Ladislav Tuma were each sentenced to 9.5 years for fraud.
The Czech Republic's former ambassador to Kuwait, Jana Hybaskova, has announced she will run for the European Parliament as an independent candidate on a joint candidate list of the European Democrats and the Union of Independent Candidates. Ms Hybaskova, an experienced diplomat, was dismissed from the post of Czech ambassador to Kuwait in November last year after she openly criticized the Czech government for its decision to withdraw the Czech military field hospital from Iraq. The first ever European Parliament elections in the Czech Republic will be held on June 11 and 12.
Police say they have captured a man accused of fraud who escaped last month from a police car while being escorted from a detention centre. The 37-year old fugitive, Jaroslav Soukup, was found hiding in his friend's weekend house in west Bohemia. The man escaped on January 30, as he was being escorted by three police officers in a car. When the police car stopped at traffic lights in the Prague district of Nusle, the man, who was wearing handcuffs, jumped out of the car and fled.
The Czech cabinet has approved the first step towards ending compulsory military service for young men in the Czech Republic by January 1st, 2005. Until now the law required all 18 year-olds to join the army, an obligation that will be waived as of the second quarter this year. Recruitment offices will continue to serve those who wish to enlist on a voluntary basis. Meanwhile, Parliament will still have to pass an amendment to the law on conscription in order to end compulsory service, an amendment stating that Czechs could only be called to serve in times of extreme crisis or war. Otherwise, as of January 2005, the Czech military will become fully-professional, joining will depend solely on personal choice.
Independent MP Petr Kott has said he will give up his mandate if he fails to overcome his personal battle with alcohol abuse. On Wednesday the MP was escorted from the lower house of parliament while inebriated. The MP says he will now seek out expert help. It is the second time Mr Kott has publicly displayed problems with alcohol: in September the deputy missed an important vote in the Chamber of Deputies due to drunkenness, prompting his former party, the Civic Democrats, to expel him from their ranks.
Friday should be a bright and sunny day with daytime temperatures ranging from five to eight degrees Celsius.