Wednesday, August 22, 2012

News 8.22.2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Radio Prague (Cesky Rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha)

News Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

By: Jan Velinger

* Russian intelligence officers were the "most active" of foreign
secret service agents on Czech soil last year, says a report by the
counter-intelligence service BIS.

* In related news, organised crime in 2011 affected areas of state
administration, local government and the judicial system.

* A court has handed the owner of devastated apartment buildings in
Ostrava a 30,000 crown fine for failing to move out residents.

* The government has an approved a proposal to broaden the powers of
the municipal police.

* The cost of petrol and diesel fuel reached record prices in areas on
Wednesday, with several stations offering Natural 95 for over 40 crowns
per litre.

BIS report: Russian agents on Czech soil focussed on energy and
industry in 2011

Russian intelligence officers were the most active of foreign secret
service agents on Czech soil last year, says the annual report by the
country's counter-intelligence service, BIS. According to the report,
Russian agents in the Czech Republic focussed most on economic issues
such as energy and industry, including the completion of the country's
Temelin nuclear power plant. A Czech-Russian consortium is one of three
participants bidding in a multi-billion crown tender on the completion
of new nuclear reactors at Temelin. The report by BIS adds that in 2011
Russia was successful in continuing long-term efforts to maintain a
high number of agents in the Czech Republic under cover of its
diplomatic corps.

BIS report: organised crime influenced parts of state administration,
judicial system, local government

In related news, the BIS report for 2011 says that organised crime was
able to interfere in decisions within the state administration, local
government and the judicial system last year. According to the
counter-intelligence service, client networks formed parallel power
structures which - in some cases - were able to influence or affect
decisions by local government bodies. The methods used by perpetrators,
the BIS report stresses, were either difficult to prosecute due to lack
of evidence, or were not by definition illegal. According to BIS,
organised crime in the Czech Republic operates on three main levels:
influencing the legislative process, bribing or discrediting members of
the justice system, and siphoning off public funds (as well as
laundering money). According to BIS, organised crime last year also
attempted to manipulate political parties and NGOs.

Report: business, lobby groups maintained influence

The BIS annual report also found that business and lobbying groups in
2011 maintained an influence on public procurement, personnel strategy
and strategic decision-making within key companies owned or co-owned by
the state. Specifically named are the national carrier Czech Airlines,
Czech Railways, and the freight operator CD Cargo. The state-run
Railway Infrastructure Administration, the report said, had taken
non-transparent steps when it came to public tenders, while forestry
firms had tried to influence a tender overseen by Lesy CR - the state
forestry enterprise. Some financial institutions, such as the Czech
Export Bank, meanwhile, took non-standard steps and financed risky
projects, BIS stressed, while energy companies, including CEZ and Czech
Coal, tried to use their contacts in the state administration to
influence legislation, according to the report.

Tatra CEO will remain free while under investigation

Ronald Adams, CEO of Czech truck maker Tatra, will not be detained
during the investigation of bribery charges levied against him, a Brno
municipal court ruled on Tuesday evening. The 62-year-old US citizen
was arrested on Monday on charges brought by the State's Attorney's
office in Brno. The charges are based on testimony by a former Defence
Minister Martin Bartak and arms dealer Michal Smrz. The Brno State's
Attorney Jan Petrasek requested on Monday that Mr Adams be detained for
the duration of the investigation, claiming the suspect might otherwise
flee the country. Mr Adams also happens to be one of the key witnesses
in a corruption case against Mr Bartak and Mr Smrz. Neither of the
defendants is currently in custody.

Slum buildings owner fined 30,000 crowns

A court in Ostrava has handed the owner of devastated local apartment
buildings, Oldrich Roztocil, a 30,000 crown fine for failing to move
out residents after eviction notices were issued by the authorities.
About 100 residents, mostly Roma, have decided to remain in buildings
that form a slum in Prednadrazi Sreet in the hope of seeing repairs go
ahead. The owner questioned Wednesday's ruling, saying that he had
appealed to the residents to leave but was left few options when they
refused. Mr Roztocil may appeal the court decision.

Government backs proposal to extend municipal police powers

The government has approved an amendment that will extend the powers of
the municipal police an undisclosed source told the Czech news agency.
Under the proposal - to take effect in July of next year - police will
have broader powers to enter restaurants and gambling establishments
after official opening hours if there is a suspicion minors had been
allowed in, had been served alcohol or were allowed to buy cigarettes.
At present, CTK says, the municipal police are restricted to
investigating establishments only during regular hours. The amendment
does not allow officers to carry out unsubstantiated raids or to enter
facilities by force, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Denisa Cermakova
recently stressed.

PM expresses hope coalition at City Hall will continue

Prime Minister Petr Necas has indirectly expressed support for Prague
Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, saying he hoped that developments pertaining to
the Prague Transit Company would not influence the current coalition
between the Civic Democrats and TOP 09 at Prague City Hall. The prime
minister was referring to the recent dismissal of Vladimir Lich, the
former head of the transit company and an ally of the mayor's, who
pressed charges against several individuals over questionable company
contracts. In a statement for the Czech news agency, the prime minister
stressed that matters at the transit company were now under
investigation and that politicians needed remain outside of the
process. On Tuesday, Prague's mayor Bohuslav Svoboda suffered a key
defeat when he failed to get backing from fellow Civic Democrats at
City Hall in his support of Mr Lich. Both TOP 09 and the Civic
Democrats at City Hall are pushing for a tender to find a suitable
successor to the former transit company head.

Price of petrol in Czech Republic hits record 40 crown mark

The cost of petrol and diesel fuel reached record prices in areas on
Wednesday, with a station along a highway in Brno offering the popular
Natural 95 for over 40 crowns per litre. Several other stations also
posted prices setting a new record and breaking the previous
'psychological barrier'. Analysts say, despite the weakening US dollar,
the price could still go up as high as 41 crowns. For the time being,
the majority of petrol stations are reportedly trying to keep the price
of gas just below the 40-crown mark.

Government approves clearer rules for future drawing of subsidies

The Czech government on Wednesday approved a proposal aimed at making
the Czech system of drawing subsidies from European funds in 2014 to
2020 more intelligible and less demanding in terms of administration,
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake told journalists. Control of how
European subsidies were being used would also be made easier, she said
at a press conference after the cabinet meeting. The proposal was
drafted by a working group with the participation of the Local
Development Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Labour and Social
Affairs Ministry.

Hailstorm damages equipment along areas of train route

A hailstorm halted traffic along the train route from Prague to Hradec
Kralove on Wednesday afternoon; the storm damaged safety equipment in
two stations along the route leading to a more than one hour delay in
both directions. The stations that saw damage were Velky Osek and
Prevysov. Travel along the route has since resumed but delays in the
area are still expected, a spokeswoman confirmed.


Thursday is expected to see partly cloudy conditions with a chance of
thundershowers in places but also sunny periods. Daytime temperatures
should reach highs of around 27 degrees Celsius.

Articles posted on today
Tatra CEO arrest raises questions about his accuser

An unprecedented number of high-level corruption cases have been
uncovered in the past months in the Czech Republic. Police and state
attorneys appear to be investigating corruption charges brought to them
with greater urgency. The arrest of Ronald Adams, the CEO of Czech
truck maker Tatra this week, is the latest scandal, adding a new layer
to an on-going investigation.
Nation's health deteriorating due to sedentary lifestyle and poor
eating habits

The Czech Health Ministry has set itself a new target - getting Czechs
to adopt a healthier lifestyle and start at an early age. According to
Health Minister Leos Heger a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and poor
eating habits are largely to blame for the nation's deteriorating
health and he wants to address the root of the problem.

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