The Czech bank Union Banka closed all of its branches on Friday morning saying it may not be able to meet its financial obligations. The central bank has begun steps to withdraw the bank's licence. Union Banka, based in the North Moravian city of Ostrava, has around a quarter of a million clients. The finance ministry said in a statement that the government could not help the troubled bank as it was purely in private hands. Union Banka was sold three months ago to the Italian investment firm Invesmart. The Czech banking sector is now fully privatised, and has been described as one of the healthiest among EU candidate countries.
The police and intelligence services have denied bugging the offices of Vlastimil Tlusty, a senior member of the opposition Civic Democrats. Speaking at a special news conference on Friday, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and the leader of the parliamentary committee responsible for the intelligence services said neither the police nor the intelligence services had placing listening devices in Mr Tlusty's office. Mr Tlusty, head of the Civic Democrat deputies' group in the lower house, interrupted a parliamentary session on Friday to ask for help in the matter. He said he had been sent a sound recording of a conversation apparently recorded in his office.
A 72-year-old Czech doctor has been remanded in custody on charges of murder after shooting dead a senior diplomat at the Nigerian embassy in Prague on Wednesday. Police say Dr Jiri Pasovsky, who apparently lost his life savings in an oil-investment scam, has confessed to shooting dead Nigerian consul Michael Lekara Wayid. Reports say Dr Pasovsky had borrowed millions of crowns from banks and friends since falling victim to the Nigerian investment scam in the mid 1990s. Thousands of letters and emails have been sent around the world in recent years, seeking funds for bogus African investment deals.
The Czech and Polish foreign ministers have said the present EU candidate countries will stick together in the enlarged EU to form a powerful voting group. The two ministers said after meeting in Prague that the so-called Visegrad Group of central European states had many common interests and would make sure their voice was heard after they joined the European Union in May 2004. The two men were meeting days after French President Jacques Chirac fiercely criticised EU candidates for their support for the United States over Iraq. The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that Mr Chirac's outburst was the source of bitter disappointment in the region.
Milos Topolovsky, a former psychologist attached to the Czech Army's elite presidential guard at Prague Castle, has been given a one year suspended sentence after being found guilty of sexually abusing soldiers in his care. The court heard how Mr Topolovsky plied the Castle Guard recruits with alcohol before sexually abusing them.
Saturday will be another cloudy and cold day, with snow forecast for some parts of the country. Temperatures in the daytime will range between -3 and 1 degrees Celsius.
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