The police have charged 25 people with tax fraud relating to imported goods from Asia. Among those charged are five customs officers and several Vietnamese nationals. The damages could reach millions of crowns. Individual members of the group have also been charged with organized crime and taking or soliciting bribes.
Czech annual inflation remains unchanged at 1.7 percent, which is in line with market expectations and slightly below the forecast of the Czech National Bank (1.8 percent). Consumer prices rose by 0.1 on the month in April, driven by the higher prices of clothing, footwear, alcohol and tobacco products. On the other hand, the price of foodstuffs, primarily pastry and dairy products, decreased slightly. Separate data released by the Czech Labour Ministry on Friday showed the April jobless rate at 7.7 percent down from 8.0 percent.
In this week’s Business News: The grey economy in the Czech Republic is estimated to be 16% of the GDP; Average fuel prices have gone done for the fifth week in a row; The Czech energy company Enrgo-Pro has been fined by the Bulgarian anti-monopoly agency; Unemployment sees a small decline to 7.7% in April, due to more seasonal positions; A group of international solar energy investors have filed an arbitration suit against the Czech Republic; Czech and Poles want to oppose planned EU legislation curbing cigarette sales.
An association of foreign and Czech solar energy investors, International PhotoVoltaic Investors Club, has filed an arbitration suit against the Czech Republic, asking for compensation for the financial losses resulting from the introduction of a 26-percent tax on solar power stations’ profits. The Czech government offered numerous incentives in the past to foreign investors in solar energy, promising extensive tax breaks. The retroactive profit tax was introduced in 2011 and applies to power plants that began operations in 2010 and 2009. This year, solar power stations received 44.4 billion crowns in government support, which is 66% of all the public finances for renewable energy.
The Czech Republic has been heavily criticised in recent years for allowing corruption to flourish – particularly for refusing to abolish anonymous stock certificates known as bearer shares. Anti-corruption campaigners say these unregistered paper shares are of great value to corrupt businessmen, dirty politicians and crooked officials, especially in doling out lucrative public tenders. Now however, their days are numbered.
The police’s anti-corruption unit have proposed that 12 people be charged in connection with suspicious contracts won by the company Promopro during the Czech presidency of the European Union in 2009. Detectives say the firm overcharged the Office of the Government by almost CZK 400 million for audiovisual services. Among those accused are three former state officials, including the then deputy to Alexandr Vondra, who was deputy prime minister for European affairs when the alleged offences took place. The three face charges of abuse of office and breach of trust, while police say the other accused are guilty of money laundering and fraud.
In Business News this week: European Commission says Czech Republic needs no further austerity this year; Czech central bank cuts growth forecast for this and next year; Finance Ministry launches monitor of public finances; Škoda considers plans to produce utility vans; six Czechs are ranked among dollar billionaires; and groundbreaking travel firm Student Agency eyes Prague’s taxi market.
The cabinet has once again rejected a proposal to maintain the controversial S-Card system for social and welfare benefit payments which came into force in January. The scheme to streamline social and welfare benefit payments to newly-established bank accounts run by Česká Spořitelna has come under fire from all sides and Prime Minister Petr Nečas recently advised the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry to scrap the project. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludmilla Mullerová, who had repeatedly tried to win approval to keep the S-cards as a form of identification for welfare recipients, said she would comply with the cabinet’s decision.
The anti-corruption police have accused the former head of the Road and Motorway Directorate of the Czech Republic, Alfréd Brunclík, of manipulating rental contracts for two motorway rest areas. The estimated losses for the state, resulting from the manipulated tender, are approximately 120 million crowns. Mr Brunclík filed a complaint against the suit, claiming the accusations against him were ridiculous and unfounded. The police have accused four other individuals in the case.
A new survey released by the STEM polling agency suggests that Czechs, in troubled economic times, largely blame foreigners for the loss of jobs. According to the poll, two-thirds stated there were ‘too many foreigners in the country’ (there are an estimated 438,000) while 45 percent said they were against foreigners being hired. Are jobs actually at threat or is the sentiment xenophobia plain and simple?
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Rare Terezín concentration camp artefacts found in attic of private home
Czechs observe day of mourning for pop idol Karel Gott
Thousands pay tribute to deceased national pop icon Karel Gott