Charges have been filed against the Czech Republic’s biggest construction company, Metrostav, in connection with the case of former Central Bohemian governor David Rath, who is standing trial for alleged bribe-taking and manipulation of public tenders. The police have also filed fresh charges against Mr. Rath and two suspected accomplices, ex-MP Petr Kott and former hospital director Kateřina Pancová. The news site Lidovky.cz reported that Metrostav’s CEO and another senior manager were implicated in the matter. A spokesperson for the company denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Rath is a former health minister and senior Social Democrat. He and 10 others are accused of illicitly creaming off EU funds by working in cahoots with a number of companies in Central Bohemia.
Prague councillors have approved a plan to build a new “D” line on the city’s metro system. The first part of the line, from Pankrác station to a depot in Písnice, will be 10 kilometres in length. The project will cost just under CZK 25 billion, which City Hall hopes to obtain from EU funds. It is unlikely to be completed before 2022. Construction work is currently underway to extend the A line from Dejvická station to Motol; the new stretch should open next year.
Transparency International have called on the minister of labour and social affairs, František Koníček, to explain his ties to a company based in a tax haven. Mr. Koníček previously headed the state forestry agency Lesy ČR. The corruption watchdog said that while he was no longer active in the Cyprus-based Equity Brokers, his wife and daughter remained on its supervisory board; Transparency International said it owned several other firms that had won public tenders or drawn on EU funds in the Czech Republic. Mr. Koníček, who is standing for President Zeman’s party in elections later this month, said all the companies he was involved with in this country acted legally. Transparency also said that former MP Petr Benda and ODS regional leader Pavel Dlouhý had ties to offshore firms. The organisation said that such companies had won public tenders worth over CZK 150 billion in the Czech Republic in the last five years.
The Finance Ministry has broadened a criminal complaint it has taken in connection with the privatisation of the coal-mining company Mostecká uhelná společnost, it said in a statement said on Tuesday. The ministry asserts that the defendants in a case surrounding the selloff had control of the firm over a year before they said they had. That information influenced the price paid to the state for its stake and also influenced the government’s decision to sell, the ministry said. A number of former managers and owners are facing charges of insider trading and fraud over their part of the privatisation in 1999. They are alleged to have swindled the state out of CZK 1.6 billion.
Speaking on a four-day state visit to Israel, the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, thanked his counterpart Shimon Peres for using the country name Czechia rather than the Czech Republic. Mr. Zeman said he himself preferred to use Czechia as it was nicer, shorter and less cold than the Czech Republic. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia some people began using the name Czechia, which is analogous to the popular Czech-language name Česko. However, it has not really caught on.
Czechs have above average skills in mathematics, according to an OECD study of 16- to 65-year-olds in two dozen states conducted in 2011 and 2012. Czechs ranked ninth in maths among 22 OECD states, Russia and Cyprus. When it comes to literacy and computer literacy they achieved average placings. An official at the Czech Ministry of Education said the results of the survey gave the lie to suggestions that the country’s level of education had fallen.
The Czech Republic’s official entry for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film looks set to be the Jiří Menzel picture Donšajni (The Don Juans). The Czech Film Academy had selected a film adaptation of the TV mini-series Hořící keř (Burning Bush) helmed by Polish director Agnieska Holland. However, it apparently does not meet the criteria for the Oscars. Donšajni, a comedy set against the backdrop of a small town opera company, had been second on the list of Czech nominations.
A new permanent exhibition has opened in the building in the East Bohemian town of Česká Skalice where Václav Havel shot the film Leaving. The garden of the Villa Čerych was used by the late president and dramatist in summer 2010 as the setting for his only movie, which was based on his play of the same name. His actress wife Dagmar took the lead female role in the film and donated some of the costumes and other items that are now on show.
The Czech ice hockey star Jaromír Jágr has scored his first goal since joining the New Jersey Devils and ended a barren streak lasting 26 games. The forward, who is 41, got the opening goal of a game against Edmonton, though the Devils eventually lost 5:4 after penalties. The last time he had found the net was for Boston in April. Interestingly Jágr got his first ever goal in the NHL on the same date, October 7, 23 years ago, as a rookie with Pittsburgh Penguins.
President Miloš Zeman met with his Israeli counterpart Simon Perez on Monday at the start of a four -day state visit to Israel. The heads of state praised their countries’ above-standard relations and discussed the Middle East peace process. President Zeman said it is the duty of the international community to fight terrorism, because negotiating with terrorists only made them stronger. Mr. Zeman described Israel as an island of democracy in the Middle East. The Czech president is also due to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu and is expected to deliver a keynote speech in Jerusalem.
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