Daily news summary

Italian police suspect people close to Ndrangeta of money-laundering in Prague

Italian police suspect two Italian nationals of money laundering in Prague, according to Monday’s edition of Mlada fronta Dnes.

The two suspects are former UniCredit manager Massimilian Fossati and real estate businessman Claude Personnettaz, who heads an agency that deals with real estate in the city centre.

According to the daily the Italian police opened the case within a broader investigation of the activities of the Ndrangeta organized crime group in Calabria.

The Czech media started writing about Ndrangeta after the murder of a Slovak journalist who was killed while working on a story on Ndrangeta’s alleged links to the Slovak government.

Pen Club demanding apology from President Zeman

The Czech Pen Club has slammed President Zeman for attacking the media in his inauguration speech last week and is demanding an apology from the Czech head of state.

In a statement sent to the CTK news agency the Pen Club says the president’s claim that certain media, including Czech public television, attempted to manipulate public opinion amounted to an attack on press freedom.

Mr. Zeman had no proof for his claim, he was merely inciting hatred towards journalists and he should apologize for his words, the statement says.

Scientists and physicians against exemptions to EU environment norms

Leading Czech scientists and physicians have appealed to lawmakers not to allow any exemptions from the strict pan-European norms on pollution that should come into force in 2021.

Individual countries will have the right to ask for a number of exemptions and Czech environmentalists say they have “signals” that coal power plants and other big polluters will try to get them.

In an appeal to the lower house of Parliament the group of scientists and physicians points out that 60 percent of Czechs live in regions where pollution norms are frequently exceeded and 11,000 people a year die of related health problems.

They have appealed for exemptions to the strict EU environment norms to be prohibited by law.

President Zeman’s Chinese advisor arrested

The head of China’s Energy giant CEFC and special advisor to Czech President Miloš Zeman, Ye Jianming, was arrested in mid-February and is being investigated for economic crimes, according to the news site Neovlivni.cz.

The news site says that the CEO’s arrest was confirmed to a group of Czech state officials who travelled to China to ascertain the situation.

The South China Morning Post recently reported that the management of CEFC China Energy had been taken over by the state agency Shanghai Guosheng Group. CEFC is active in the Czech Republic where it has assets worth 1.5 billion euros.

A spokesman for the president said Mr. Zeman had received the Chinese ambassador to Prague to discuss the situation.

Government to look into financing policy of state companies

The government aims to review the financing policy of state and semi-state owned companies with regard to the salaries and bonuses paid to their management.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerová told Právo that the Finance Ministry would look into the matter as soon as possible focussing in particular on the policy of excessive golden handshakes that CEOs receive without any regard to their performance.

A state company should be given a clear road map and the CEO should receive bonuses according to the results achieved, Schillerová said.

Marks & Spencer staying in Czechia despite slide in profit

The UK-based retailer Marks & Spencer is staying in the Czech Republic despite a slide in profit last year. According to the company’s annual report its profit in the Czech Republic was down by a half, to 21 million crowns. Sales remained at 1.7 billion.

Last year the chain introduced e-sales, which are extremely popular in this country. The chain store has already withdrawn from Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia over low profit.

In the Czech Republic Marks & Spencer has 13 stores and employs some 460 people.

Weather forecast

Tuesday should bring partly cloudy skies, some rain and day temperatures between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius.