The parliamentary committee investigating the privatisation of the Czech oil and chemicals group Unipetrol has asked Trade Minister Milan Urban and former prime minister Stanislav Gross to testify on December 1st. Several high-ranking members of the ruling Social Democratic Party have been accused of taking bribes in exchange for arranging the sale of Unipetrol to PKN Orlen of Poland. The special committee will also seek testimony from a Polish lobbyist, a former chief aide to Mr Gross, and a television journalist whose report spurred Parliament into investigating the Unipetrol tender.
The US electronic components maker CTS Corporation is set to invest nearly $22 million in a new plant in the Ostrava region of the Czech Republic. CTS Corporation is a leading designer and producer of components for the automotive and electronics industry. Production in CTS's new plant should be up and running in June 2006. The company expects to hire more than 160 people within three years' time.
The German retail chain Edeka has denied that it plans to sell its Polish, Austrian and Danish outlets, as reported in trade industry publications earlier this week, but has not ruled out selling its 38 Czech outlets. Edeka entered the Czech market in 1992. Competition in the retail sector has intensified in recent years, and several big international names have already left the Czech market. The French retailer Carrefour announced this autumn it would exit the country in a store swap deal with Tesco of the U.K. Austria's Julius Meinl is also exiting the country and has sold its 53 stores to Ahold of the Netherlands.
Czech authorities have broken up a group of illegal alcohol producers and distributors, detaining eight people and seizing thousands of bottles of liquor. The suspects, Czech and Slovak nationals, were detained last week at points throughout the country. Seized during the raid were a complete production line, some 32,000 bottles of illegal vodka and rum, and 3,600 litres of ethanol. By some estimates, up to 30 percent of all liquors sales in the Czech Republic could be illegal.
A bill that compensates clients of bankrupt banks has made it through to the second reading in Parliament. Under the draft legislation, affected clients can be compensated for losses up to four million crowns, or roughly 165,000 US dollars. A number of financial institutions - including the Czech National Bank, the Association of Banks, and the Deposit Insurance Fund -- have come out against the bill. They mainly object to a provision that would also pay out compensation to holders of then anonymous accounts.
Health Minister David Rath has said called for Parliament to set up a commission to investigate alleged links between the main opposition Civic Democratic Party and the ailing VZP health insurance company. The state-owner insurer has debts of some 14 billion crowns. Mr. Rath, who put the insurance company under forced administration soon after taking office this month, has openly accused leading Civic Democrats of abusing VZP funds for personal gain. The opposition Civic Democrats say they are outraged by the accusations and are planning to take the health minister to court.
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