Customs officials confiscated more than 56 million crowns worth of untaxed cigarettes in the first half of 2010, as well as illegal alcohol worth more than 3 million. One of the directors of the customs office told reporters on Thursday that roughly a third of the illegal products had been found during road stops, while the others were discovered when investigating shops. The majority of the cigarettes had been smuggled into the country from Ukraine, followed by Belarus and Russia by citizens of those countries using cars with Czech licence plates to escape the interest of customs officers. Conversely, substantially less cases of illicit cigarette manufacturing within the Czech Republic were uncovered compared to the previous year.
Betting agencies say that Czechs bet more than one billion crowns on the 2010 football World Cup. The company Fortuna said that it expected a final total of more than 400 million crowns, while Tipsport projected half a billion in wagers, all in spite of the fact that the Czech team is not playing in the tournament. The agencies agreed that the results were worse than general due to the many upsets in the tournament; betters, they said, were pulling for Brazil and Argentina, both of whom lost in the semi-finals. According to the bookmaker, the favourite for the championship title is Spain.
The Ministry of Culture has lifted a 3.25 million crown fine imposed on the City of Prague for damage done to Charles Bridge during its reconstruction. The fine was originally imposed in March by the Region of Plzeň, which was to mediate the matter to avoid a conflict of interests. However, the Ministry of Culture said Thursday that it found procedural errors in the case, that the defendent’s motions had not been considered and the amount of the fine had not been justified. The region, the ministry said, should supplement its evidence, correct the errors and issue a new decision on the matter. The Ministry of Culture itself has previously criticised the city for shoddy masonry work on the 15th century bridge, among other things. Charles Bridge is the second oldest stone bridge in the Czech Republic and one of its most prized monuments. It has been undergoing restoration for the last two years.
Fire-fighters in two separate parts of the country battled blazes on Thursday that caused millions of crowns in damages. In the southeast Moravian town of Zlín a large, 360-unit residential building took light in the town’s largest suburb of Jižní Svahy. Meanwhile on the other side of the country in near South Bohemian Strakonice, a high-capacity straw warehouse containing over a thousand tonnes of straw and hay caught fire during the night. The damage is estimated at 19 million crowns. The respective fire departments are investigating the causes of both fires; no one has been injured in either incident.
Parties hammering out a coalition government programme sealed a deal on the last outstanding area of policy on Wednesday night. The three parties agreed on the broad lines of a future health policy, including the thorny issue of patient charges. Public Affairs’ demands that prescription charges for pharmacies should be abolished were pushed through. But they will stay in place for visits to doctors and be broadened regarding hospital stays and visits to specialists without a doctor’s recommendation. A new level of increased charges for higher levels of service will be introduced. Health was the last of seven chapters of the future government’s accord where an agreement had not been reached.
The city council in east Bohemian town of Svitavy has approved demonstrations of both right-wing extremists and their opponents on a single afternoon in late July. The municipal police are preparing extensive safety measures and the routes of the two groups are to be kept apart. Roughly 120 right-wing extremists marched on Svitavy last year; they were met by an anti-racism demonstration of some 70 people.
The tabloid daily Šíp must pay compensation to two parents for publishing photos of their deceased son, the Supreme Court has ruled. Judge Pavel Pavlík said that the tabloid violated the parents’ “right to reverence” when it published photographs on the internet and in print of the burnt body of their son after a traffic accident in 2006. The parents originally sued for one million crowns each in personal damages; the Supreme Court imposed compensation of 50,000 for each. The case was also dealt with in 2008 by the Czech Journalists’ Syndicate, which agreed that the pictures were not in the public interest and had truly traumatised the family.
The construction company Metrostav has submitted a report on the collapse of the Blanka Tunnel to the City of Prague. However, the city says it will not release the report to the public. City hall spokesman Tomáš Wolf said the report was being prepared for Friday’s meeting of the City Council and would not be make public before then. No cause has yet been given for the partial collapse, which left one worker buried under rubble near Prague Castle and a gaping hole in the ground outside a government office. Prague mayor Pavel Bém has initiated a police investigation and the Czech Mining Office is doing likewise. The Blanka Tunnel has partially collapsed on two other occasions since it went under construction in 2007. When completed, it will be the longest municipal tunnel in Europe.
Meanwhile, a forest fire in the area of Litoměřice in Central Bohemia
halted railway traffic to the town for two hours on Thursday afternoon. A
spinning mill near the northern town of Náchod also caught fire on the
same day, requiring six units of firemen and 22 trucks to extinguish. No
one was injured. While the cause is yet unknown, the fire broke out at
midday from the wiring of an electrical spinning frame on the first floor
of the three-floor building. It then spread quickly through the air
conditioning. The company that owns the mill estimated the damages at 100
to 200 million crowns; firemen put the damage at 40 million.
Police uncover 10 million in cannabis
Police in Moravia uncovered more than 3500 cannabis plants worth 10 million crowns at a former industrial grounds near Šumperk. Six Vietnamese who arrived in the Czech Republic roughly a month ago were charged with illegal narcotics manufacturing and possession. Plant cultivation equipment worth 2.5 million crowns was also discovered in the area. The police said that the operation was uncovered through their own investigation and in cooperation with the power company ČEZ, which noted that tenants on the grounds were paying the inordinate sum of 300,000 crowns a month for electricity.
The extended four-day weekend has proved to be one of the most tragic on Czech roads. Traffic police report 26 road deaths attributed to heavy traffic, the heat and drinking and driving. In one case a cyclist was killed after cycling in the opposite lane on a highway, in another a 22-year-old drunk man without a license mowed into a group of people on a bus stop. The first weekend of the school holidays was all the more tragic for the fact that ten people drowned, mostly through alcohol and irresponsible behaviour.
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