Insight Central Europe News

Police uncover Slovakia's biggest fraud case

Police in Slovakia have arrested a seven-member gang believed to have defrauded the country of some 600 million crowns (24.2 million US dollars). In what is the biggest fraud case in Slovakia's history, the group, which traded in scrap metal and valuable steel, produced fake documents to exempt the transactions from VAT. Police monitored the suspects for a year and raided around 35 homes. The six men and one woman, who were arrested, face up to ten years in prison. Another 28 people are believed to have been involved in the case.

US Defence Secretary visits Poland

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has visited Poland to discuss Washington's proposal to base parts of a missile defence system in central Europe to defend against a potential threat from Iran and North Korea. Washington wants to put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic, at a cost of $3.5 billion. The Czech Republic has formally agreed to start negotiations on the radar site, which is to be built in the Brdy hills between Prague and Pilsen. Washington expects Poland to take the next step by agreeing to negotiate terms with the United States for a site.

The plan has sparked a dispute with Moscow, which fears the United States could eventually convert the missile defence sites for offensive use against Russia. The plans have also raised concerns inside Poland and the Czech Republic, where polling shows most people oppose the plan, mainly because they fear the country could become a target of a terrorist attack.

Hungary and Croatia to seek refund for failed Euro 2012 bid

Croatia and Hungary are demanding compensation from UEFA to cover the costs of their failed bid to host Euro 2012. Local media reported that as much as two million euros ($2.71 million), which is roughly the sum Hungary and Croatia invested in the bid, could be sought. The 2012 European Championship was last week awarded to Poland and Ukraine instead of Italy or the joint Croatia-Hungary bid, which many observers saw as a major surprise. Croatian FA President Vlatko Markovic held a meeting with UEFA President Michel Platini on Monday and expressed his disappointment with the outcome of the bid.

Fugitive billionaire detained in South Africa

Radovan Krejcir, a fugitive billionaire wanted by the Czech police, has been detained in South Africa. Mr Krejcir, who is wanted for extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder, managed to escape from the Czech Republic during a police raid of his villa in 2005. He moved to the Seychelles, where the authorities refused to extradite him because he had bought Seychelles citizenship. Travelling under a false identity, Mr Krejcir was detained at Johannesburg airport on Saturday. His arrest is the result of a joint effort involving several countries, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said on Monday. The Czech authorities are now in discussion with South Africa and will send an official request for Mr Krejcir's extradition this week.

Budapest potential new home of UNHCR offices

The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday it may move some 155 administrative and support jobs from its Swiss headquarters to Asia or Europe to reduce costs. The countries under consideration are Hungary, Romania, India, and Malaysia. Some 155 out of 900 positions in Geneva could be moved to a new centre towards the end of 2007, though no decision will be taken until May, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. Jobs slated to be moved fall under human resources, financial and supply management.

Maribor candidate for European Capital of Culture 2012 title

An international commission assessing candidates for the European Capital of Culture 2012 has recommended that Slovenia's second-largest city Maribor receive the title. The commission's opinion is not binding and the final decision will be made by the government, Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti told the press. Maribor is running for the title together with five other Slovenian towns with the motto "Pure Energy".