Four Chinese nationals have been taken into custody on suspicion of having illegally imported and sold some $30 million worth of textiles and other goods, on which customs duties and VAT was not paid. The Chinese nationals were arrested following an eight-month-long investigation. The arrests themselves took place over two days during an action codenamed "List". Police searched 15 homes and several storage facilities during the raid. They seized over $4 million in cash. The Chinese nationals each face up to 12 years in prison.
The newly appointed Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, has asked for a confidence vote in his government to be taken on May 13. The date was reportedly chosen to coincide with an official visit to the Czech Republic by the German chancellor, Gerhard Shroder, who will arrive in Prague the week beginning May 15. The news paper Mlada fronta Dnes reported that the chancellor Shroeder was originally due to visit Prague this week, but his visit had to be postponed due to delays in choosing a new Czech prime minister.
Several prominent Social Democrat deputies have said they intend to found a left faction within the ruling party on May 14, one day after the confidence vote in Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek's government. The MPs include former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who is pushing for the party to have greater influence at the ministry, starting with the appointment of a Social Democrat to the position of deputy foreign minister. MPs Vladimir Lastuvka, Ivan David and Josef Hojdar are among those involved in forming the new faction.
The majority of Czechs are in favour of reinstating the death penalty, according to a new poll by the CVVM agency. Some 28 percent said they were "definitely" in favour of capital punishment; 38 percent said they were "inclined" towards it. Only nine percent of those polled said they were "definitely" against bringing back the death penalty, which was abolished exactly 15 years ago, by the government that took over after the fall of communism. The CVVM agency found that pensioners, non-religious people, and those without formal education tend to favour the death penalty, as do
In related news, the German cabinet has approved a draft law aimed at preventing cheap labour from Eastern Europe from undercutting wages. The draft law sets minimum wages for foreigners working in certain professions and would make it more expensive to hire Czech brick-layers or butchers, for example. Berlin is also looking to crack down on independent contractors based in the Czech border regions from circumventing the seven-year restrictions on the free movement of labour that Germany imposed on new European Union members states.
Czech Television, the Czech public service broadcaster, is launching a news channel on Monday. The channel, called CT24, will be available on satellite and cable TV 18 hours a day in its trial operation. Round the clock broadcasting is expected to start in the autumn. The channel will also broadcast online at www.ct24.cz. News will be broadcast every hour, other programmes will focus for example on business, sport and science and technology.
The leadership of the opposition Communist Party has decided to recommend to the party's deputies not to support the government of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek of the Social Democrats in the upcoming vote of confidence. Mr Paroubek is expected to ask the lower house for confidence in his cabinet in two weeks time. A number of Social Democrat MPs have not yet confirmed whether they will give confidence to the current governing coalition which relies on a one-vote majority in the lower house.
DNA tests have confirmed the identity of another Czech national who was killed by the tsunami wave in Thailand at the end of last year. The woman is the sixth confirmed Czech victim of the disaster; five people were killed in Thailand, one in Sri Lanka. Two Czechs still remain unaccounted for. They went missing in the Thai island of Phi Phi are also believed to have died.
Britain's Prince Edward is to visit in July a Czech golf club which is the only club outside the United Kingdom allowed to call itself "royal". The club, in the spa town of Marianske Lazne, was opened by his great-great-great-grandfather King Edward VII in 1905. The king became the club's first listed member and visited 10 times over the following four years.
Meanwhile, the president of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, has defended two leading MEPs who recently criticised the Czech president for his opposition to the European Constitution. Mr Klaus called for an apology after Alejo Vidal-Quadras and Jo Leinen said he was misleading Czech voters on the issue, and could lead the Czech Republic into isolation. On Friday the Czech president refused to react to Mr Borrell's statement, saying it was an insufficient response to a letter of complaint he had sent to the president of the European Parliament.
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