Tuesday, December 6, 2011

News 12.6.2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

By: Christian Falvey

* The prime minister has indicated that Culture Minister Jiri Besser
will likely be asked to resign when he returns from the Vatican on

* Public tenders worth two billion crowns were apparently manipulated
by a hacked computer programme used to draw the winners.

* The Chamber of Deputies has overridden a presidential veto to
introduce criminal liability for companies.

* Around a fifth of the Czech Republic's teachers are set to strike for
one hour on Wednesday morning.

* The artist known as Roman Tyc has been sentenced to one month in
prison for failing to pay a fine imposed for one of his stunts.

PM indicates end of the road for culture minister

Prime Minister Petr Necas has indicated that Culture Minister Jiri
Besser will likely be asked to resign when he returns from the Vatican
on Wednesday. On Tuesday Prime Minister Necas said he had a clear
opinion on the continuation of Mr Besser in his cabinet, but would
share it with him, rather than the media, first. The TOP 09 party is
reportedly already discussing who to name for the position of culture
minister. On Monday, Mr Besser apologised for having failed to include
property and business ownership in the US in his property statement,
but said he was innocent of any corruption. He said that if anyone
could produce incriminating evidence, he would resign upon completion
of negotiations with the Vatican.

Besser's business partner says minister helped him secure property in

Mr Besser's former business partner, Pavel Hrach, told the Czech press
on Tuesday that the minister's involvement in their U.S.-based firm was
intended to help Mr Hrach secure property in Florida. Pavel Hrach, a
long-time friend of Mr Besser's, says that the Culture Minister's
participation in the Comoros Group was as a guarantee so that he could
purchase the 230,000 dollar house in Florida, which Mr Besser later
failed to include in his property statement. He also said that Mr
Besser visited the residence "once or twice a year". Those oversights
have put Mr Besser in the centre of corruption allegations since they
were discovered last week. Senior members of Mr Besser's party, TOP 09,
said they were content that the culture minister had not intentionally
committed any wrongdoing, but were more perturbed by his business
association with Mr Hrach, who was recently convicted of corruption. Mr
Besser said he had not been aware of Hrach's corrupt activities.
However, it later emerged that Mr Hrach had also been convicted of a
similar offence in 2003.

Public tenders worth two billion manipulated by rigged software

Public tenders worth two billion crowns were apparently manipulated by
a hacked computer programme used to draw the winners. Police told TV
Nova that software intended to select construction companies at random
had been rigged to give particular outcomes, potentially influencing
all types of public projects in more than three dozen communities. All
evidence was automatically deleted from the laptop computers running
the draws. Roughly half of the cases involve money from EU funds.
Police have yet to charge anyone in the matter, though Nova reports
that three companies in particular are under suspicion.

Parliament overturns veto on criminal liability for companies

The Chamber of Deputies has overridden a presidential veto to introduce
criminal liability for companies. The bill was passed with 120 votes.
President Klaus vetoed the bill last month - in spite of its being a
key part of the government's anti-corruption legislation - on the
grounds that it ignored the link between crimes and their perpetrators,
and was merely part of a trend towards criminalizing corporations. The
Czech Republic was the only EU member state without such legislation.

New Prague City Hall continues with personnel changes in city-run

The new council at Prague's City Hall has approved a number of
personnel changes in the management of city-run institutions. The
supervisory board of the Municipal House will see eight of its members,
including its chairman, replaced. The councillors selected new members,
who are set to begin on Wednesday. Two Prague district mayors and a
deputy mayor, all Civic Democrats, as well as several others, were also
dismissed from the supervisory board of city's water management
authority. The supervisory body of the Prague transit authority was
changed out last week, resulting in the resignation of the company's
director. Coming weeks are also expected to see personal changes in the
municipal waste management company.

Randak: Organised group funnelling money from DPP

Former chairman of the Anticorruption Endowment and intelligence
director Karel Randak claims that an organised group is funnelling
money out of Prague's transit authority, DPP. Mr Randak told a press
conference Tuesday that the company's funds are going missing from
deliveries of spare parts, fuel and ticket production. He said that the
company Cokeville Asset was involved in at least two such cases and
urged Prague's City Hall to press charges; otherwise, he said, the
endowment would do so. On Monday the Prague Public Transport Company
cancelled a contract for passenger tickets that the contracted company
itself admitted was wildly overpriced.

Teachers set to strike Wednesday morning

Around a fifth of the Czech Republic's teachers, some 20,000 people,
will be participating in Wednesday's hour-long strike, unions report.
As many as 1,600 schools will remain closed until 9 a.m. on Wednesday,
when the government is set to discuss changes to teachers' salary
tables. Another thousand schools will open on time but will not hold
class for one hour. Most of the striking schools are in north-eastern
and South Moravia, with considerably less participation in Prague. The
unions are protesting a proposal to leave teachers' salaries to the
discretion of headmasters rather than their length of service. The
proposal would affect primarily older teachers, who statistics show
make up more than half of the teaching force. In theory, many teachers
could lose 4,600 crowns off their pay, the unions have said.

Tejc to head Soc. Dem. deputies' club

Social Democrat deputy chairman Jeronym Tejc has been elected to head
the party's parliamentary club, replacing party chairman Bohuslav
Sobotka. Mr Sobotka recently left the position in order to concentrate
on his primary post and on next year's district and Senate elections.
Mr Tejc, who was the only candidate for the senior party post, received
48 of 51 votes, according to the daily Pravo.

Roman Tyc sentenced to one month in prison

The artist known as Roman Tyc has been sentenced to one month in prison
for failing to pay a fine imposed for one of his stunts. The best known
of the Ztohoven guerrilla art collective, Tyc was fined 60,000 crowns
in 2007 for replacing the red and green figures on dozens of pedestrian
crossings with various ridiculous images - legless or hanged men for
example. The judge admitted that the public had appreciated the act,
but said the city had incurred damages of 82.000 crowns. The artist
publically refused to pay the fine, explaining that he had set the
figures on signal lights free. Ztohoven and Tyc have been on court on
numerous occasions before, most notably after hacking into a live
weather programme on Czech Television and broadcasting an atomic

Charges of attempted fraud and bribery brought in Tatra case

Charges of attempted fraud and bribery have been brought in connection
with a Czech military order for Tatra lorries. The Ostrava state
prosecutor's office told the Czech Press Agency CTK on Tuesday that
they suspect that one person demanded five million dollars from a
senior manager of the Tatra company under the false pretext that he
would use his influence to eliminate business troubles connected to the
order. The names of the persons charged cannot be divulged, however the
media has widely speculated that they include former defence minister
Martin Bartak and his acquaintance, armament company owner Michal Smrz.


Conditions over the coming days are expected to be mostly cloudy with
scattered rain and snow, and daytime highs of 2 to 5o Celsius.

Articles posted on www.radio.cz today

Czech government prepares for bad times

Standard & Poor's fuelled fears of a crippling economic crisis in
Europe on Monday, issuing a dire warning of an unprecedented mass
downgrade of eurozone countries' credit ratings if EU leaders fail to
deliver a fast and efficient solution to the region's debt crisis.
Although France and Germany promptly threw their weight behind a reform
plan which would reinforce governance within the alliance, scepticism
remains high and even non-eurozone members such as the Czech Republic
are bracing for the worst.


Struggling Czech Airlines to dismiss one-third of pilots

The struggling state-owned carrier Czech Airlines announced on Monday
it will a dismiss a third of its pilots as part of restructuring plans,
with some receiving their pink slips as early as this week. According
to the firm, up to 100 pilots will be let go, although, the company
suggests the cloud may have a silver lining: the possibility of further
employment with subsidiary company Holidays Czech Airlines. The catch
is that working for the subsidiary will be nowhere near as lucrative,
offering significantly lower salaries.


Jiri Trnka: an artist who turned puppets into film stars

It would be hard to meet a Czech whose childhood was not touched
(perhaps unconsciously) by the art of Jiri Trnka, a painter, puppeteer,
illustrator and above all, the founding father of Czech animated film.
His poetic drawings brought immortality to books that would otherwise
be long forgotten. And his animated films bestowed dozens of puppets
and drawings with life.


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