Daily news summary


Czech anti-organised crime police note rise in cybercrime, tax fraud

The Czech police unit charged with combatting organised crime (NCOZ) has released its annual report outlining developments in the sector. Among other things, it points to a rise in cybercrime and tax fraud using bogus ‘chains of companies’.

Reported incidences of cybercrime increased by 1,161 to 6,815 last year it said. Most related to bogus online shops and ‘phishing’ attacks, where sites extract and exploit users’ data and accounts. It also noted a slight increase in the spread of extortionate ‘ransomware’.

The NCOZ report noted high levels of tax evasion and fraud among Vietnamese and Chinese businesses, which it said often use “chains of companies” to mask transactions. It said there had also been a rise in such financial crime by Slovak-owned entities, particularly among employment agencies.

It further noted an increase in confiscated forgeries of ID cards and papers especially from Romania, Poland and Lithuania. The illegal employment of foreigners in the Czech Republic brings with it organised criminal gangs, the report said, noting Ukrainians represent the largest number of foreigners here illegally.

Babiš: Zeman will decide on Social Democrat Culture Minister in mid-August

President Miloš Zeman will accept the resignation of Culture Minister Antonín Staněk by the end of July and decide on whether Michal Šmarda, the Social Democrat nominee, will succeed him in mid-August, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš tweeted after a meeting with the president in the latter’s Lány residence on Wednesday.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Jan Hamáček said that he will discuss the results of the Lány meeting with the prime minister on Thursday. However, he continues to insist on the nomination of Michal Šmarda.

If the situation goes along the lines described by the prime minister, the Ministry of Culture will not have a leader for two weeks in August. Mr. Babiš told the newspaper Lidové Noviny that this short period will not impact the ministry. The government is on holiday between August 1-26.

According to Mr. Babiš, Deputy Minister of Live Art Kateřina Kalistová (Social Democrats), could temporarily fill the role.

Senate votes in favour of constitutional complaint against president

The upper house of Czech Parliament voted in favour of a proposal for a constitutional complaint against President Miloš Zeman. The proposal received 48 votes on Wednesday, while 20 senators voted against and 7 abstained. If the proposal also receives support from the majority of the lower house, it will reach the constitutional court. However, this is unlikely, due to the ruling ANO-Social Democrat coalition, supported by the Communist Party, holding a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. The Freedom and Direct Democracy Party, which seems likely to support the president as well, controls a further 19 seats.

The impulse for the draft complaint is the alleged influencing of the judiciary by President Zeman and his staff. The president’s recent unwillingness to accept the resignation of Culture Minister Antonín Staněk has also been added into the complaint.

In mid-June President Zeman dismissed the accusation, saying that it was a sign of constitutional illiteracy.

Drought: Czech groundwater levels remain at lowest average points since 1960s

Groundwater levels remain at the lowest average points since the 1960s, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, despite the heavy rain of recent days.

Soil drought afflicts nearly two-thirds of Czech territory with no relief in sight.

Meteorologists say sustained rain and isolated thunderstorms will only raise humidity levels in the upper soil strata, and only in certain areas.

Klára Kolouchová becomes first Czech woman to climb all three of world’s highest mountains

Czech mountaineer Klára Kolouchová reached the top of K2 mountain located in the Himalayas on Thursday morning, making her the first Czech woman to successfully ascend all three of the world‘s highest peaks. Kolouchová climbed Mount Everest in 2007 and Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, this May.

The Czech mountaineer managed to make it to the top of K2, often seen as the most difficult and dangerous mountain to ascend, on her third attempt. Previously she had been stopped by avalanches and nausea. She is currently working on a documentary film with director Jana Počtová about her quest to get to peak of K2.

Syphilis cases on the rise in EU, up 70 pct in Czechia from 2010-17

Syphilis cases are on the rise throughout Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned.

In the Czech Republic, ECDC data show a 70 percent increase in reported cases between the years 2010 and 2017, the last year for which complete data is available.

Despite the rise in reported cases, the Czech rate of infection is less than half the European Union average.

Some 30,000 syphilis cases were reported in the 28 EU Member States in 2016, when the average incidence rate was 6.1 cases per 100, 000 people.

12 singers advance to finals round of Operalia competition in Prague

Twelve young opera singers have advanced to the finals round of Plácido Domingo's annual Operalia competition, now underway at the Czech National Theatre in Prague.

The finalists, selected from 40 young singers from across the globe, will compete for prizes of up to USD 30,000 each in the final-round concert on Friday evening.

The general competition awards first, second and third prizes for male and female singers, while just two prizes are bestowed to a man and a woman in the zarzuela division.

Friday’s final-round concert will be live-streamed on medici.tv as well as via Operalia’s Facebook page, and will feature the finalists performing alongside an orchestra conducted by Domingo himself.

Karel Gott cancels Benátská noc festival appearance due to pneumonia

Pop singer Karel Gott, who turned 80 last month, has cancelled an appearance at the upcoming Benátská noc festival in Liberec due to acute pneumonia, a spokesperson said.

Gott was due to perform on Thursday, the eve of the festival, at the traditional "Party for the Impatient" (Večírek pro nedočkavé). It was to have been his last public performance this year.

The festival setting is considered to be the most beautiful in the Czech Republic. It traditionally features headliners in three musical genres over three days: rock on Friday, pop on Saturday and folk music on Sunday.

Central bank issues specials sets of coins to mark 100-year anniversaries

The Czech National Bank re-issued 30,000 sets of six 20-crown coins on Wednesday to mark the centenary of monetary separation from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The six coins featuring famous First Republic politicians such as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, as well as the first central bank governors, were first issued in 2018.

At that time, collectors could exchange them for coins of the same value. Now the cost for six coins has been set at CZK 590. Another 20,000 sets of the coins are due to go on sale this autumn.

Weather outlook

Friday should be hot and sunny, with light cloud cover mainly in the eastern half of the country. Average highs should hover at around 31 degrees Celsius. Rain is in the forecast for the weekend.