Lidove noviny reported on Monday that police formed a special
intelligence unit under the last Social Democrat government, which was
assigned to look for evidence that would cast doubt on the restitution
claims of noble families. According to the daily, the unit was supposed
to look for documents abroad that would challenge some claims for the
return of properties worth billions of crowns, which were confiscated
from noble families at the end of the Second World War.
The paper writes that Czech agents were to find documents in German and Austrian archives proving that the claimants were not born with the Czech citizenship necessary to entitle them to their property. It is believed that one of the people targeted by the unit was Franz Ulrich Kinsky, who had property worth an estimated 40 billion crowns (1.9 billion US dollars) confiscated by the Czechoslovak State in 1945 when he was just nine years old.
The Brno city councillors have agreed that the UNESCO-listed Tugendhat villa which is being claimed back by the descendants of its pre-WWII owners should remain property of the city. The decision has yet to be approved by a vote of the city hall assembly. The city originally intended to give the villa back to the Tugendhat family via the state but the state authorities refused it.
Police are investigating another alleged attempt at bribing Marcela Urbanova, a key witness in the case of Deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek who has been accused of corruption, state attorney Petr Bares told the CTK news agency. The investigation has been initiated by an article in a regional Vsetin weekly which accuses Ms Urbanova, former secretary to Mr Cunek when he was still mayor of the town of Vsetin, of having taken a bribe for mediating a municipal contract for a private company.
A German government spokesman said on Monday that NATO needs to discuss whether Iran represents a severe enough security threat to justify deployment of a US missile shield in Eastern Europe. The United States wants to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland, a plan that has enraged Moscow and threatens to divide Europe. Washington says the system is needed to counter the threat posed by Iran.
A new poll by the STEM agency suggests that 4/5 of Czechs are not happy with the current political situation. Sixty-percent of those polled said they were dissatisfied with the performance of the cabinet. Parliament enjoys even less support. On the other hand, 70 percent of the population support the president, according to the poll.
Mlada fronta Dnes wrote at the weekend that the Civic-Democrat-led cabinet wants to introduce a 15-percent flat personal income tax as of 2008 and gradually reduce corporate tax from 24 percent to 19 percent by 2010. Personal income tax currently ranges between 12 percent and 32 percent depending on one's earnings. The introduction of a flat tax would reduce tax revenue, but several papers have reported that the state may offset this by increasing VAT on selected goods such as food, medicines, nappies and books.
The Czech government has decided to sell a seven-percent share of the power company CEZ on the capital market. According to Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, at the current price of the stock the sale could bring 36 billion crowns (1.7 billion USD) to the state coffers which the government plans to use for the repairs and construction of roads. The government holds a 67.6-percent stake at CEZ.
The Ekonom weekly writes that the Communist Party has appealed against a court verdict ordering it to sell its Prague headquarters for 410 million crowns (20 million USD) to a private company. According to the weekly, the party is meanwhile seeking an out-of-court settlement with the company. The Communist Party leadership decided to sell its headquarters in 2005 but changed their minds afterwards. The company interested in the purchase filed a lawsuit and a Prague court has ruled in its favour.
Around 30 Czech soldiers have left Prague to man a field hospital in Afghanistan. The troops flew to Kabul on Monday where they will join up with colleagues who left with equipment earlier. The hospital will begin operations in April and will provide surgical, post-op and dental care for allied troops in Afghanistan. The mission will cost 150 million crowns (7.1 million US dollars), paid from the defence ministry budget while some costs will also be covered by NATO.
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