Czech officials held on EU fraud charge

A Prague court on Friday remanded in custody a senior aide to two former Social Democrat prime ministers on charges of pocketing EU funds and blackmail. The charges against Zdenek Dolezel and also Ladislav Peta, mayor of the town of Budisov, and Miloslav Rehulka, an Agriculture Ministry employee, were brought on Wednesday. The three men were accused of having siphoned off tens of millions of Czech crowns of EU and state funds from a project to renovate Budisov castle. They are also accused of blackmailing a Czech architect, Marek Ricar, who alerted police to the alleged fraud. According to media reports, the three were preparing to hire a killer to assassinate Jan Kubice, head of the special police squad for uncovering organised crime. Mr. Rehulka was also taken into custody while Mr. Peta was taken to a hospital for medical attention; his lawyer told reporters that Mr. Peta has cancer, and was due to start treatment in hospital on Friday.