One in five Czech companies have been the subject of blackmail, suggests a survey quoted in Hospodarske noviny. However, the newspaper said there was great variety in the forms of blackmail experienced, ranging from excessive pressure from competitors to death threats. Of those firms affected, 15 percent said politicians had attempted to blackmail them. A representative of the Czech branch of Transparency International said companies were reluctant to talk publicly about the issue of blackmail, due to fears about their safety and reputation.
Police say they believe the man suspected of carrying out the biggest cash robbery in the country’s history Franstisek Prochazka had an accomplice. Mr Prochazka is wanted in connection with the theft of around CZK 560 million (over USD 31 million) from the Prague offices of the security company where he worked on Saturday. The police’s latest theory is that another person drove a vehicle belonging to the suspect during the robbery. Following a reported sighting on Tuesday, dozens of police officers surrounded the building where Mr Prochazka lived for several hours, though they failed to find him inside.
A labourer died on Tuesday when a concrete panel fell on him and two others during the demolition of a hotel in the mountain resort town of Spindleruv Mlyn. A spokesperson for the local police said the man's whole body had been trapped beneath the panel; he was dead by the time rescue workers arrived on the scene. The two other workers are being treated in hospital for their injuries.
Around half the Czech Republic’s teachers and other school staff took part in a one-day strike on Tuesday in demand of increased funding. It affected pre-schools, elementary schools and secondary schools. Some schools were open, though teachers organised alternative programmes for pupils instead of normal classes. Unions are demanding that extra money be set aside for next year’s education budget to cover salaries and teaching aids.
The leadership of the Christian Democrats want the party’s chairman Jiri Cunek to return to the posts of deputy prime minister and minister for regional development. The party’s leaders on Tuesday voted to recommend that the Christian Democrats national committee nominate Mr Cunek for the positions. The controversial politician resigned after the reopening of an investigation into allegations that he received bribes during a spell as mayor of a town in Moravia; that investigation has now been dropped definitively. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has indicated he is willing to meet the wishes of the Christian Democrats and reinstate Jiri Cunek.
The US private equity firm Warburg Pincus has acquired majority ownership of the Czech Republic’s second-biggest internet portal, Centrum.cz. The amount it paid for the website has not been disclosed. Centrum.cz was launched in 1999 as a direct competitor to Seznam.cz, which remains the most used Czech web portal.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, has hit out at the European Union’s Reform Treaty, describing it as nothing but a renamed version of the EU constitution rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands. Speaking to a group of business leaders in Prague, Mr Klaus said the treaty radically deepened economic integration by transferring powers to Brussels and bringing about a change to majority voting. President Klaus, who has long been a vocal euro sceptic, said he had refrained from speaking about the issue in order not to cause problems for the government.
Ondrej Liska of the Green Party has been named minister of education. Mr Liska, who is 30, replaces his party colleague Dana Kuchtova; she stepped down two months ago after failing to draw on the entire EU funding available to the Czech Republic. Appointing the new man on Tuesday, President Vaclav Klaus said the Education Ministry had been a rock on which several of Ondrej Liska’s predecessors had foundered, though he said his youth and élan would stand him in good stead. Last week the president expressed reservations about naming Mr Liska education minister due to his comparative youth.