The state prosecutor is seeking sentences of up to 11 years imprisonment for repeat offenders charged with selling marijuana. Lawyers in the case gave their closing speeches in the District Court of Liberec on Monday, with the prosecution petitioning for the high sentence because the drug had been sold on a large scale, over a space of years, and had reached minors. Two of the men are moreover repeat offenders, convicted 14 and 8 times, respectively. A part of the group, aged 20 to 34, confessed to crime and was offered four years’ imprisonment.
The new council at Prague City Hall has begun working on its policy statement, which covers its plans for the next eight years. Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said it was important that the policy plans go beyond the current term of office in light of the current economic situation. Individual councillors have begun offering the mayor proposals for the sectors entrusted them, foremost amongst those being construction adaptations, investments and the operation of the city amid the current economic climate. Some of the new councillors have indicated transportation priorities such as the completion of metro line A and the Blanka tunnel complex, as well as anti-corruption and fiscal responsibility measures.
Culture Minister Jiří Besser has denied allegations of corruption and says he will resign if incriminating evidence emerges. Mr Besser admitted on Friday that he had neglected to claim part ownership in a US-based company and property in Florida worth 230,000 dollars in his property statement, and said it was an oversight on his part. Head of the TOP 09 parliamentary club Petr Gazdík said he was content with the evidence the culture minister had provided in his defence, but objected to his connection to another co-owner in the firm, Pavel Hrách, who was recently convicted of corruption. Mr Besser has said the company never undertook any business activity and generated no profit, but says he is prepared to take legal responsibility for his mistake.
Czech economist Jan Švejnar has been appointed founding director of a new centre for global economic policy at Columbia University in New York. The new centre will associate significant international personalities to seek ways to solve problems in world economics and submitting proposals to governments and international organisations. Mr Švejnar, who is 59 and has duel Czech and U.S. citizenship, currently heads the Prague-based IDEA think tank for public policy. In 2008 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Czech presidency as a joint candidate for the Social Democrats and the Green Party. Some have speculated he may seek the post again when President Vaclav Klaus´ final term expires in early 2013.
Poachers stole over a thousand fish from two ponds that they drained overnight on Sunday. Residents near the town of Šumperk said they had never seen a similar case, with about 33 thousand crowns worth of trout stolen from very near the owners’ homes. The owners themselves say they had responded to their dogs’ barking but saw no one. Police looked for footprints at the site on the Morning, but found only that the culprits had used wood from the owners’ wood stacks to avoid stepping in the mud. If convicted they face up to five years in prison.
The Association of Dialysis Centres has warned that health care reforms will cause certain facilities to go bankrupt next near and others to limit their number of patients. The cuts, it says, will mean serious economic problems for the centres, which in turn will have a negative impact on contractors, employees and renters and destabilise the entire system. The Health Ministry, however, insists on the reduction, arguing that dialysis is one of the areas that have been given preferential treatment in the past. The ministry plans to increase funding for hospitals alone next year, with other sectors having to wait until 2013.
Police President Petr Lessy will retain his position after reaching an organisational agreement with Interior Minister Jan Kubice. Mr Kubice said Monday that communication between the two had improved and that he appreciated the positive approach that the police president took in his proposal for personnel changes at the police presidium. The new proposal entails primarily cutting one deputy and 100 other posts at the presidium, which Mr Lessy had previously feared could bring instability. The Interior Minister had previously been calling for Mr Lessy to step down due to disagreements over the institution’s reorganisation.
The ex-wife of Martin Kocourek is seeking one half of the 16 million crowns that the former trade minister withheld from the couple’s divorce settlement. Mr Kocourek resigned two weeks ago after failing to provide a legitimate explanation to why the money had appeared on an account belonging to his mother. The trade minister’s defence was that the money was his and that he had “diverted” it to his mother in 2008 to protect it from his divorce settlement.
The Prague transit authority has cancelled a questionable contract for supplies of passenger tickets. Several criminal complaints have been filed regarding the contract and the diversion of money tied to it to the British Virgin Islands. The contracted company, Neograph, itself moved to terminate the contract two weeks ago, and admitted that the tickets, sold for tens of millions of crowns, were twice as expensive as they should have been. The outgoing director of the Prague Public Transport Company, Martin Dvořák, said that he wanted to definitively resolve the situation before handing over the company’s reins on Monday.
The government’s economic advisory board NERV and the Finance Ministry are considering measures which would help the Czech Republic overcome economic difficulties in Europe, Monday’s Hospodářské noviny reports. Amongst other things they include the enactment of balanced budgets, introducing a flat VAT rate of up to 20 percent and shortening the working week for companies. According to the paper, the council has prepared three scenarios including one for the eventuality of the collapse of the eurozone. The Finance Ministry is going to submit its detailed plans in January 2012.
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