The Ostrava state attorney on Friday released from custody four former managers of the bankrupt Union Banka. They have been charged with breach of trust in property administration and granting disadvantageous loans, which stripped the bank of three billion crowns. The state attorney said that the three months custody period had expired and there was no longer reason to fear that they would try to influence witnesses. According to investigators, the bank managers granted risky loans to their friends in the period between 1999 and 2003. If convicted, they face a sentence of up to eight years in prison.
A Czech wanted for illegal arms trade has been arrested in Liberia. Dalibor Kopp who was charged with illegal export of ammunition to Iraq was detained by UN peacekeeping forces on the basis of an international arrest warrant this week and was brought to a court in Liberia on Wednesday. Kopp fled the Czech Republic at the end of December to avoid prosecution. In 1995 he held talks with Arab traders on the export of ammunition to the Middle East. To cover up the deal, the ammunition was bought by a company in Yemen which subsequently sold it to Iraq.
The government is planning to reduce mortgage support for people with higher incomes. Local Development Minister Jiri Paroubek told journalists on Friday that tax deductibles on mortgage loans would not be abolished, as previously planned, but just reduced. Currently people can deduct up to 300, 000 crowns annually from their tax base, a level of state support that Paroubek considers to be "overly generous". The planned changes should come into effect as of January 2006. In mid 2003, Czechs had 117 thousand mortgage loans to the tune of 128 billion crowns.
Two Czech drug dealers who were sentenced to 50 years in prison in Thailand for smuggling heroin, now hope to be released on the grounds of an amnesty declared there last year. The two men each spent several years in a Thai prison before being transferred to a Czech prison last year. One of the men is reported to be in seriously bad health.
Prague mayor Pavel Bem was ripped off by a taxi driver who failed to recognize him in a tourist disguise. The Mlada Fronta Dnes daily, which has been waging a campaign against dishonest Prague taxi drivers, persuaded the mayor to dye his hair black, slick it back and put on a pair of expensive sunglasses, before jumping into the nearest city taxi. Asking for a short ride in Prague's city centre the mayor found himself in a taxi with a rigged meter and was subsequently charged six times the normal rate. The driver faces a steep fine and in the event of re-offending he could lose his permit.
The Czech Police say they have broken up an organised gang, which was planning to create a new route to smuggle drugs into the Czech Republic. One of the five arrested gang members is a Serbian national who used to be a judge in former Yugoslavia and was granted asylum in the Czech Republic in 1994. The group was allegedly dealing in cocaine and the locally-produced amphetamine pervitine. If found guilty of drug dealing they can each face up to fifteen years in prison.
The Czech government has asked parliament to approve extending the mission of just under a hundred Czech military police stationed in Iraq. They are due to return at the end of next month, but the government now recommends that they stay till the end of the year. They are based in southern Iraq where they are helping to train Iraqi police. President Vaclav Klaus has said that he supports the extension, which will cost around 175 million crowns (just over 7 million US dollars) from the Defence Ministry budget.
The right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats officially forwarded
their proposed European constitution referendum bill to the Senate on
Thursday. The bill counts on a referendum on the European Union's first
ever constitution being held by the end of this year.
The bill is opposed by the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats who would like to see the referendum held at the same time as the parliamentary elections in 2006. They argue that a separate referendum would cost the state a further 380 million Czech crowns (just under 16 million US dollars).
The number of Czechs still missing in Southeast Asia has dropped to 10, after a tourist in Burma contacted her family on Thursday. Six of the missing are believed to be dead and only one Czech casualty has been confirmed so far. The Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, DNA samples of each missing Czech will be on the next plane to Thailand.
A group of forty prisoners at a prison near Brno, South Moravia, have begun collecting money from their fellow inmates to help the Tsunami victims in Southeast Asia. Donations, amounting to 10,000 Czech crowns (a little over 400 US dollars), have already been sent to the accounts of various Czech humanitarian organisations. A prison spokeswoman said on Thursday the inmates were donating some of their pocket money, which they use to buy food at the prison canteen.
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