The Vietnamese branch of Interpol and Czech police have announced the safe return home of scores of young women tricked into prostitution in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Vietnamese media reported that among them were some fifty women and girls who had been rescued from illegal brothels in the Czech Republic. Interpol said that organised gangs had made victims believe they'd won a free trip abroad. Several alleged gang members have been arrested.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has reportedly given Agriculture Minister Petr Zgarba a one-week deadline to introduce new controls to make the sale of state-owned land more transparent. State officials - including Minister Zgarba, who is also chairman of the Czech Land Fund - are suspected of having sold state property at well below market rates, possibly for personal gain. No charges have been filed, but two Fund employees were been dismissed earlier this week, and Mr Zgarba is to replace his vice chairman. An internal audit at the Land Fund is underway.
Year-on-year inflation rose to 2.6 percent in October, the fastest growth so far this year, the Czech Statistical Office said on Tuesday. Inflation had reached 2.2 percent in September. The main reason for the jump was higher fuel costs. The Czech National Bank had surprised the markets last week by raising rates a quarter point, to 2 percent, in an effort to curb inflationary pressures. Many economists now predict inflation could reach 4 percent next year and expect the central bank to raise interest rates another quarter point in January.
Farmers in the region of Ostrava where the South Korean carmaker Hyundai is considering investing some $ 1.2 billion for a new car plant have agreed in principle to a land exchange --and unspecified compensation from the government -- for making the move. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek had hinted last month that the state could force the farmers to accept a deal. The stand off mirrored an obstacle that the Hyundai affiliate Kia Motor faced when in 2002 it tried to buy land for its first European factory, in neighbouring Slovakia.
Czech police have reported breaking up a drugs gang allegedly organised by prisoners at a maximum security prison. Two men, serving 18 year sentences for double murder are said to have run the gang - which produced methamphetamine - from behind the bars of Valdice prison, making use of cell phones and visits by family members. Seven others have been arrested. According to drug law enforcement head, Jiri Komorous, gang members smuggled methamphetamine, known locally as pervetin, to neighbouring Germany, where they earned the equivalent of about 20,000 US dollars. If found guilty, each of the suspects could face a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison.
The Interior Ministry has announced its intention to implement changes at a number of refugee camps. The reason is the fewer number of applicants seeking asylum in the Czech Republic. In 2005 so far some 2,300 have applied for asylum, down markedly from last year and by more than three-quarters since 2003, when 11,400 applied. The aim of changes backed by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan is to improve living conditions for asylum seekers at a number of facilities, while at the same time lowering overall spending. A refugee camp in the Central Bohemian region of Pisek, will be closed down permanently.
The country's largest state-owned health insurance company, VZP, has promised to shorten the length of late payments to hospitals and especially privately-run emergency clinics. The head of the VZP, Jirina Musilkova, said on Monday that until now the insurer had shortened the length of late payments from 45 days to 29, saying she expected the trend to continue. The VZP owes unpaid millions of crowns to doctors and health facilities. Newly-named Health Minister David Rath said at the weekend that the VZP - which he accused of not cooperating with previous administrations - needed to improve its financial situation in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has come out in support of acting Supreme State Prosecutor Renata Vesecka, in particular her plans for fighting corruption. The prime minister met with Mrs Vesecka on Monday prior to her naming to the post of Supreme State Prosecutor later this week. Renata Vesecka replaces Marie Benesova who was dismissed by the government in September. In coming to the post Mrs Vesecka has made clear she will aim to improve state attorneys' records in bankruptcy proceedings, as well as will create special teams to combat terrorism, organised crime, and corruption.
According to the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, the Czech Republic
will not back the idea of the European Union monitoring the Rafah border
crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The incentive for just such an operation
was discussed by EU foreign ministers on Monday, one day after the EU
commissioner for the Middle East, Marc Otte, met with senior Israeli and
Palestinian officials. Guarding the border to prevent, for example,
against the smuggling of weapons, would mean unprecedented EU involvement.
Appeals to the European Union have been made by both Israeli and
So far, the EU's foreign ministers have approved to dispatch 50 senior police officers to the Palestinian territories, to take part in training Palestinian police. The Czechs reportedly will have two officers in the group.
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