Units from the anti-corruption police division arrested Petr Smetka in Prague mid-day Friday, on the basis of a court order. Mr. Smetka was transported to Pankrac prison where he begins serving a 12-year sentence for his role in an embezzling scheme. According to the Prague Municipal Court, the extraordinary order to have Mr. Smetka taken into custody came after he disobeyed a June court ruling, preventing him from accessing assets set aside to compensate clients who lost money when H - System, a construction company that Mr. Smetka founded, went under. At least 1095 people lost a total of over 980 million crowns (nearly $44 million US) in the fraud scheme.
A new internet game called Total Burnout of Lidice has appeared in a second variation. The original game was created by ad agency McCann Erickson as an educational tool, to interest young people in the Nazi WWII era destruction of Lidice, a village in central Bohemia; the original game which links website visitors to the Lidice memorial website received approval from the head of the Lidice memorial, Milous Cervencl. But the new, pirated release involves killing, and Mr. Cervencl says that he regrets that good intentions can be twisted in such cruel ways. The creators of the pirated game remain anonymous.
A division responsible for investigating cases of corruption is working on a case involving members of the company VAE, which was co-owned by Mirek Topolanek, the newly-appointed Czech Prime Minister. At issue is a 1999 First City Bank loan worth 67 million crowns (over $3 million US), which was not repaid in its entirety. VAE thus has an outstanding debt and a criminal investigation is underway. Mr. Topolanek said that the investigation does not concern him directly.
The Prague districts of Zizkov, Vinohrady and a portion of Prague 1 was left without electricity on Friday morning, when four transformers failed at 10:36am. The electrical failure left trams in Zizkov standing, and the metro was also affected for a short time. Experts agree that a technical failure is to blame.
American pop star Madonna has wrapped-up her stay in Prague with a second sell-out concert at Sazka Arena on Thursday night. The daily Pravo reports that former Czech president Vaclav Havel and his stepdaughter Nina were the only people from outside of Madonna's immediate circle to partake in the star's traditional pre-concert prayer before the opening show on Wednesday. Mr Havel's spokesman said he was moved by the prayer service, and did not find the concert performance offensive. Madonna has been heavily criticized by Christian groups for symbolism used in her 'Confessions Tour' show.
The European Union is asking the Czech Republic and six other EU states to raise the sales tax on beer. The increase would equal about one-fifth of the current tax rate and come into effect sometime between 2008 and 2010. Brussels is suggesting the change because EU analysts say that beer prices have not been affected by general inflation in recent years, and experts say higher prices are also a way to combat alcoholism. Czech brewery owners are opposed to the proposal.
The Czech Republic's first Internet-only newspaper, Aktualne.cz, is expanding into neighbouring Slovakia later this month, on September 19. Aktualne.cz began in November 2005 and registered an average of 140 000 daily hits in its first seven months of existence. With the rapid spread of broadband and wireless access in the Czech Republic, about 3.6 million Czechs (roughly one-third of the population) are regular users of the Internet.
According to a poll by the GfK polling agency, most citizens of the Czech Republic believe they live in a corrupt state and that corruption is on the rise. Czechs are also pessimistic as to the future developments. 56 percent of the respondents said they saw bribery as a normal part of life. On the other hand, fewer than 20 percent said bribes were unnecessary as everything could be obtained in a legal manner. According to last year's annual corruption perceptions index by the anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, the Czech Republic came joint 50th with Greece, Namibia and Slovakia, out of a total of 159 countries surveyed.
Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna told the Sport daily that she was to become an American citizen as her application for citizenship was in its final phases. The 1998 Wimbledon champion, now 37, has been living in Highland Beach, Florida for around 10 years. Novotna said the authorities had surpassed her expectations as she filed her request for citizenship only last year. The daily added a comment that Czech tennis has now exported 27 Grand Slam titles to the US after Martina Navratilova with 18 and Ivan Lendl with eight, now it is the turn of Jana Novotna.
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