A special tax-evasion unit set up by the Czech Finance Ministry, has uncovered fraud worth 270 million crowns, the head of the Czech Tax Administration, Jiří Žežulka told reporters. Four men have been charged with tax evasion in the case; the men allegedly carried out fictitious sales of technology to offshore firms, and then applied for VAT reimbursement. The alleged fraud is the first case uncovered by the special unit, dubbed Kobra which was set up earlier this year and includes experts from the tax and customs administration and the police.
An audit at government ministries run by the Social Democrats has discovered suspicious deals worth around two billion crowns, Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka told a news conference on Friday. Around half of the potentially wasted funds is related to several problematic IT deals of the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Mr Sobotka said the situation in the state administration was worse than expected, and blamed the problems on past Czech governments. The prime minister and his team has reviewed four ministries controlled by the Social Democrats; Mr Sobotka said that audits would continue. A review of six ministries controlled by the ANO party earlier this year found suspicious deals worth 16 billion crowns.
Czech trade unions have threatened to stage protests if public employees are not granted a 3.5 percent pay rise next year. The Czech centre-left government has promised to increase salaries in the public sector by 3.5 percent in 2015 but union leaders say the rise is not planned for all public workers. The head of the Czech trade union association, Josef Středula, said they would raise the issue with government officials by the end of July and in early September when draft state budget for next year is to be finalized. If their demands are not met, they are ready to launch protests in the following months, Mr Středula said.
The Temelín nuclear power plant has been taken off the grid after one of its reactors experienced problems with one of the pumps in plant’s first water circuit, a spokesman for the plant said. The reactor was taken off the grid on Thursday night. The plant’s other reactor was shut down in June due planned flue replacement. The plant’s operator, the state-run firm ČEZ, said the shutdown would not affect customers as the firm has replaced Temelín’s output with electricity from other sources.
Some 200 trains running on a major railway route between Prague and Kolín are facing delays on Friday over a faulty power line, a spokesman for the country’s Railway Infrastructure Administration said. The incident has affected a number of connections between the capital and major cities in eastern Czech Republic including Brno, Břeclav, Olomouc and Ostrava. Several trains have been cancelled while express trains are being diverted to an alternate route. The authorities expect the power line will be fixed by 6 PM on Friday.
The Czech Republic could lose up to 65 billion crowns in EU subsidies earmarked for the country in the financial period 2007-2013, according to a report by the country’s Supreme Audit Office released on Friday. The office said that by the end of last year, funds had been released to finance projects worth 395 billion crowns, which represents only some 54 percent of all available funds. The share increased to 57 percent by the end of the first quarter of 2014; however, the country could lose the funds due to slow processing of the projects as well as errors made in choosing projects to get EU funding, the head of the office said.
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová has come under fire from left leaning Czech politicians for the fact that she has declared her official residence to be the tax haven of Monaco and does not pay taxes in her home country. In a Facebook comment, Social Democrat member of parliament Stanislav Huml suggested that Kvitová lose her Czech citizenship because of the tax move, reportedly carried out at the end of October last year. Parliamentary colleague and head of the Budget Committee Václav Votova suggested that Kvitová no longer play for her country. Most Czech tennis stars are now based in Monaco.
The ANO party has made an about turn over its candidate to be the next Czech EU Commissioner by saying that Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová is now its nominee and not Pavel Telička. Jourová said she was willing to be put forward as long as a suitable post in line with her current responsibilities is on offer, according to Czech Television. The move seeks to break a deadlock between the two main parties with worries growing that Czech hopes of security an important portfolio are being dented by the delay putting forward a candidate. Czech Prime Minister Bohulsav Sobotka earlier expressed the hope that the Czechs could land an important economic dossier or portfolio such as energy. Telička, elected as a member of the European Parliament, has been damaged by his past lobbying activities in Brussels, notably his connections with the Czech multi-millionaire Zděnek Bakala.
Czech film actor, scriptwriter, director, and writer Zdeněk Svěrák ws awarded the president’s prize at the International Karlovy Vary Film Festival on Thursday for his lifetime contribution to cinema. The 78-year-old Czech, who won an Oscar in 1996 for the film Kolya in which he starred and directed, was given a standing ovation at the presentation in the spa town. Svěrák, whose films often contain a large dose of humour, said laughter was the main reward for his work.
Czech media reported Thursday mounting pressure to select a new European Commissioner as other countries have already made their choice and deals over the hand out of portfolio’s start. The two main government parties, the Social Democrats and ANO, have each put forward their own candidates and in recent weeks have refused to concede. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported that one option that has surfaced is to keep current Czech commission Štefan Füle on. Another possibility might be ANO Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová, be nominated for the post,it said. The business daily Hospodářské Noviny said a vote in the Cabinet might be called for in which the chances would increase that Social Democrat nominee Pavel Mertík would win.
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