This part of the Kroll report has angered Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek since it suggests that Mr. Čunek successfully lobbied for a Vsetín armament company at the time when Mr. Kalousek was defense minister. Minister Kalousek categorically rejected the idea that he or any of his subordinates had negotiated with Jiří Čunek at the time and ruled out that Mr. Čunek had been in a position to influence any armament contract or obtain sensitive information on the subject. The finance minister said he was considering legal steps against the Kroll detective agency.
The Senate is to start debating a constitutional change to the election law which would open the way to direct presidential elections. There is general agreement across the board that this should be done but there is still controversy over whether the president’s mandate should be broader once the head of state is elected by the people. Several amendments are being proposed. Opinion surveys indicate that the majority of Czechs want to elect their president in a direct vote. However making the change will not be easy. All constitutional changes must be approved by three fifth of deputies in the lower house and three fifth of senators.
Local and Senate elections in the Czech Republic are to take place on October 17 -18th, the President’s Office announced on Wednesday. Candidates to both regional assemblies and the upper house of parliament must submit their candidacies by August 12th. Local elections will take place in all 13 regions. In the Senate, one third of the 81 mandates will be contested. Under the election law, the president must declare the elections 90 days ahead of the scheduled date.
Meanwhile, Kroll investigator Tommy Helsby told the CTK on Wednesday that the contents of the missing 700 pages from the close to 5,000-page police report were highly unlikely to influence the overall conclusions of the Čunek audit. The report says that while there is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Čunek had taken bribes, he received high rewards for lobbying, paid out per day which is not subject to taxation, and which would explain the striking difference between his official income and the large sums of money deposited on his various bank accounts.
The state attorney has dropped criminal proceedings against the head of the Prison Service Luděk Kula, on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Kula was accused of breach of trust and mismanagement of state funds in connection with an order for mobile telephone jamming systems in prisons, as a result of which the state lost out on twenty million crowns. Kula says there was no ill-intent on his part and that he had simply been poorly advised on financial matters.
Prime Minister Topolánek has said further investigation into Deputy Prime Minister Jiří Čunek’s personal finances is meaningless. The prime minister was referring to the incomplete audit performed by the US investigation agency Kroll at the request of Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The audit was meant to exonerate Mr. Čunek but although it ruled out that he had taken a bribe it could not rule out other financial irregularities in his personal finances. While Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg wants to continue with the investigation the prime minister argued that drawing-out the painful Čunek saga and covering the same ground repeatedly was meaningless.
The Czech Olympic Committee on Wednesday announced a squad of 130 athletes for next month's Beijing Olympics where they are hoping to equal the eight medals won in Athens and Sydney. Top medal hopes include gold medal winner from Athens, decathlete Roman Sebrle, and world javelin champion Barbora Spotakova. New names can still be added to the list ahead of the July 22 deadline.
Czech archer Milan Andreas has tested positive for marijuana and is set to miss the Beijing Olympics, the Czech Olympic Committee told the CTK news agency on Tuesday. The 19-year-old said he had taken marijuana in September last year without a thought for the consequences. He said he was bitterly disappointed to have to miss the Olympics which should have been the height of his career.
An audit that seemed to clear controversial politician Jiří Čunek of corruption has not actually been completed. The website tyden.cz reported that 700 pages of information about his personal finances had not been supplied by Mr Čunek to the US agency investigating his books. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg – who threatened to quit the cabinet if the Christian Democrats leader was not exonerated – said the audit would continue. Mr Schwarzenberg told the newspaper Lidové noviny on Tuesday that he had also ordered an audit into the work of the police and the state attorney’s office in connection with Mr Čunek. The latter resigned as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development in November because of an investigation into allegations that he took a bribe while he was mayor of a town in Moravia. When the state attorney definitively halted that probe he returned to cabinet. Jiří Čunek has been involved in a series of controversies, including over seemingly racist comments he made about Romanies.