News Monday, AUGUST 16th, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Witness protection law in the pipeline

The Czech Justice and Interior Ministries are currently processing a law that if passed will provide extensive support for witnesses in court cases against the mafia. During such trials, key witnesses would have the option of changing their and their families' identities. If their safety is seriously at risk, then they would be moved to another country, and the state would support them their until they find a job. According to officials, this will help immensely in the battle against organised crime, as the greatest problem they currently face is getting people to testify against the mafia. Experts believe that the protection witnesses currently receive is insufficient.

Roma race trial continues

The trial of four Roma men accused of a racially motivated attack last spring will continue today in Usti nad Labem. On April 12th last year, a driver ran into three of the men, who were all drunk. No-one was hurt because the driver braked in time. The Roma men then attacked the driver and his wife. A police patrol arrived at the scene to intervene, and the Roma focused their attack on the police, now reinforced by many others. The incident was eventually resolved by police reinforcements. During the attack, two police officers and the married couple were injured, the woman seriously. The four men are accused of a racially motivated attack, assaulting a police officer, hooliganism and grievous bodily harm. Two of the accused have refused to plead, and the other two have pleaded not guilty.

Football fans seriously injure woman

A female passenger was seriously on a train by football hooligans just outside Ostrava on Sunday. A group of approximately fifteen Banik Ostrava fans began throwing rocks at the train, which was carrying supporters of the rival team Sigma Olomouc, with whom they were about to play a match. One of the rocks thrown at the train struck a twenty-three-year-old woman on board, and caused massive brain damage. The woman is currently in hospital and is fighting for her life. The police are investigating the incident to ascertain the identities of the attackers, but have so far not made any arrests.

Defence Ministry representative faces trial

A representative of the Ministry of Defence, Colonel Ladislav H., will be put on trial in September for taking bribes. The colonel was arrested last year in the act of accepting a bribe of three hundred thousand Czech Crowns, which he had demanded from the owner of Zeman+Zeman, one of three companies that supplies groceries to the army. The accused apparently demanded one percent of the annual total price of groceries provided to the army by Zeman+Zeman.

Small companies warred of problems with Millennium Bug

The co-ordinator in charge of dealing with Millennium Bug in the Czech Republic, Karel Berka, has warned small and medium-sized companies that they face a grave situation if they do not make sure their computer systems are ready for the next millennium. Many of these companies old computer software for their invoicing programmes, and these systems could crash on January 1st, leaving them unable to invoice clients and unable to pay VAT. Berka stated that problems may not just be limited to January 1st, and could appear anytime during the first half of the year 2000. Company owners should approach their software providers for more information. This follows a report in June that less than ten percent of Czech companies have dealt with the Millennium Bug.

Surprising increase in the number of state employees

Despite the increasing number of unemployed people in the private sector, the latest figures from the Czech Statistical Office show a marked increase in the number of people employed in the public sector. The number of people employed by the state has increased by seventeen thousand in the past year, and while the head of the Employment Research Institute, Martin Macha, says that increasing unemployment in construction or heavy industry is a reflection of the country's present economic situation, he is completely at a loss to explain the increase in public sector jobs. The Czech Statistical Office and state representatives have been unable to explain which institutions or offices have been hiring more people.

Twenty Roma denied entrance to Germany

A group of twenty Czech Roma, eleven of which are children, were detained at the Czech-German border by German customs officials on Saturday on their way to England by bus. The customs officers ordered them off the bus and then refused them entrance to Germany as they did not have the minimum of one hundred German Marks per person per day that is required by German law. In total, the group had roughly this figure between them. According to Western Bohemia's police spokeswoman, Helena Malotinska, the Germans customs officers acted in accordance with German law, without regard to the nationality and skin colour of the group. The group left the border post on Saturday afternoon to return home.

Police investigate tax evasion allegations against the ODS

The Czech police are investigating tax evasion allegations against the opposition centre-right Civic Democratic Party, the ODS. Allegations surfaced on Thursday that the ODS received a sponsorship payment of over seven million Czech Crowns from two Brno-based companies to pay for advertising for the 1996 general elections, and that the party failed to register this payment. The general manager of ZS Brno, one of the two companies in question, Michal Stefl, stated on Thursday that the payment was made in return for receiving a public tender from the Ministry of Transport. Michal Stefl later retracted this statement, denying that he had admitted knowing about any sponsorship deal. The ODS also denies any knowledge of the payment. Party Vice Chairman Michal Benes stated on Saturday that if the allegations prove to be true, then this a question of irregular book keeping, and not deliberate tax evasion.

Mass lawsuit important for further negotiations

According to American lawyer Ed Fagan, the mass lawsuit brought against three German and one Austrian company on Friday by Czechs who were forced to work as slave labour in Nazi Germany, will be important for further negotiations between the two parties. Fagan, who is representing the Czechs in the US, expects that the four companies, which are Steyr-Daimler-Puch, Daimler-Chrysler, Volkswagen and Siemens, will propose concrete figures for compensation in a meeting in Bonn on August twenty third. If they do not, Fagan said, then the Czechs will leave the negotiating table. He confirmed that the Czechs want to receive seventy five thousand dollars per victim, of which there are up to fifty thousand. At the end of July, representatives of both parties agreed that no civil action would be brought, in return for the creation of funds to compensate victims and their families. The Czechs' lawyers, however, decided to file the lawsuit because victims in Western Europe have been offered larger levels of compensation.

Italian secret service breaks ring smuggling Filipinos into Italy via the Czech Republic

Italian security forces have broken up a network that apparently arranged for the illegal transportation of up to eight thousand Filipinos into Italy via the Czech Republic. Eleven people were rested as part of the operation, six Slovenians and five Filipinos, in three cities in Italy. The network was organised via a travel agency that sent people to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and from there they travelled to Slovenia. The illegal immigrants were then smuggled across the border into Italy.

And finally the weather.

The weather will today will be cloudy and cool with high temperatures reaching 24 centigrade. And that was the news.