In this week's Business News: the Czech national debt is down for first time since the 1990s; inflation levels continue a downward trend; the new Prague metro "D" line is approved; unemployment levels are up in September; Budvar declares victory over rival in Italy and former PM Vladimír Špidla says rosy Czech poverty data is misleading.
A Swiss court handed down prison sentences to five Czechs on Thursday for asset stripping, fraud, money-laundering and breach of trust, in a case surrounding the privatization of the Czech Republic’s second largest coal mining company, Mostecká Uhelna. The former managers, who received between 16 and 52 months in prison, used the company’s own assets to buy a majority stake in the firm, diverting some of the money into Swiss bank accounts. The Swiss authorities launched an investigation into the matter in 2011. Two of the defendants – Petr Kraus and Antonín Koláček – were detained in court, though the others were not present at the sentencing. The sixth defendant in the case, the 86-year-old Belgian citizen Jacques de Groote, will have to pay a fine for his involvement. Charges are still pending against the Czech former managers in the Czech Republic, though they may have to be dropped given the Swiss court’s decision.
The Czech Republic’s state dept has decreased by more than 14 billion crowns in September since the beginning of the year, according to information released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday. This is the first decrease in state dept since the 1990’s. Currently, the debt is 1.654 trillion, which amounts to more than 157,000 crowns per person in the Czech Republic.
Finance Minister Jan Fischer has accused his predecessor Miroslav Kalousek of tolerating violations of the labour code at the ministry while in office. Minister Fischer said that an internal investigation had revealed serious malpractices in the past including violations in work ethics and attendance where favoured employees had had month-long work absences covered by non-existent business trips. Others had been subjected to mobbing at the workplace which their superiors turned a blind eye on. Mr. Fisher said he believed his predecessor could not have been unaware of what was going on.
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.
The Czech Republic will fail to draw 30 to 70 billion crowns from EU funds in the 2007 to 2013 period. Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok said on Monday this was due to the somewhat complicated EU mechanism of fund drawing and the inability of many Czech public officials to present long-term projects and goals. The prime minister said he ascribed this failure to all post-2007 governments which had underestimated the task of drawing EU funds and closed their eyes to weaknesses in strategic planning.
In Business News this week: household consumption begins to increase; Czech Republic wins a 1.8 billion arbitration case; fuel prices continue to decline; passenger rail travel goes up slightly in 1H of 2013; e-book sales are expected to double this year; Prague Zoo, ETA are among the best known Czech brands.
The municipal library in the central Bohemian village of Milín has been named the Library of the Year by the Czech Culture Ministry. At a ceremony in Prague on Thursday, the jury praised the library’s outreach and its role in the life of the community. In the village with 2,100 inhabitants, the library last year registered over 11,000 visits. The prize for significant IT improvement was awarded to the library in Litvínov, in northern Bohemia. The library in Hradec Králové was named the best city library of 2013.
The Josef Jungmann prize for the best translation into Czech was awarded to Anežka Charvátová for her translation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666 from Spanish. The Josef Jungmann prize has been given out annually since 1991 on the day of Saint Jerome, who is the patron saint of translators. At this year’s ceremony, Věra Koubová, who is best known for translations of Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche, was inducted into the hall of fame.
In his new book, former Czech president Václav Klaus calls for the Czech Republic to leave the European Union. In the book entitled “Decision Time” which is to be published next week, Mr Klaus argues that the EU deepened various negative features of the Czech society, politics and economy by overregulation, disregard for the sovereignty of national governments, and diminishing their responsibility. In an interview for the daily Mladá fronta Dnes on Thursday, Mr Klaus also called for a fundamental change in people’s thinking, similar to that which occurred after the fall of communism. Mr Klaus, whose second term as president expired in February, now heads his own Prague-based institute.
Czech Ambassador to Ethiopia Pavel Mikeš: ‘If you wait long enough, an egg will walk on two legs’
Archaeologists find unique grave of Roman era warlord in Uherský Brod
New debate erupts over use of -ová suffix in Czech female surnames
Josef Becher – the man behind Czech Republic’s iconic liqueur
Divided by Freedom – Large-scale Czech Radio survey finds six social classes in Czech society