Anti-trust officials from the European Commission have carried out surprise inspections at energy giant ČEZ and other power companies in the Czech Republic. The raids took place as part of an investigation into suspected anti-competitive behaviour, the European Commission said on Tuesday. It said it was looking into whether ČEZ had worked to block competitors in order to boost its own position as the country’s dominant wholesale power supplier, either acting alone or in conjunction with other firms. Counterparts from the Czech anti-trust body took part in the raids alongside European Commission officials.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is to begin an inquiry into the privatisation of a Czech bank, the news website aktualne.cz reported. The investigation into the year 2000 sale of Česká spořitelna to Austria’s Erste Bank has been sparked by allegations made by two former executives at the latter institution. The two, who were fired by Erste this year, say the bank paid bribes to local politicians and officials when buying banks in the central and eastern Europe region. They told aktualne.cz that in the Czech Republic the bribery concerned leading politicians. The former bank officials are planning to file lawsuits against Erste in the US. For its part, the Austrian bank has rejected the allegations, while former ministers who served under then Czech prime minister Miloš Zeman have also denied any wrongdoing.
The ČSOB, Česká spořitelna, Raiffeisen and Volksbank CZ banks have started recalling hundreds of credit cards over a Spanish fraud scam, the news website aktualne.cz reported on Wednesday. The measure affects clients who have used their cards abroad, particularly in Spain where fraudsters stole data from a local credit card centre. The move was prompted by a similar measure in Germany where banks are recalling more than 100,000 credit cards.
President Václav Klaus has signed into law a bill which will reduce the salaries of state employees and constitutional officials by 4 percent in 2010. This includes all civic servants, MPs, senators, judges and state attorneys and should save the state close to 127 million crowns. The measure is only valid for a year and was approved in light of the economic crisis.
Czech unemployment fell for the first time in a year in October. The jobless rate dropped by 0.1 percentage point to 8.5 percent compared with September according to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The total number of Czechs out of work ready to take up a job fell by just over 2,000 over the month, dropping below the half million mark. Some analysts warn that the decrease is mainly due to seasonal factors with the unemployment trend still upward and likely to reach 9.3 percent by the end of the year.
The Czech Republic has launched an ambitious and in some ways unique project to get all public institutions and businesses onto the electronic highway for the purposes of official communications. But the launch of the so-called data box project has been accompanied by indifference from users and some teething problems.
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