News Sunday, JUNE 25th, 2000

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IPB-NOMURA

Japan´s Nomura Group has strongly criticised the transfer of IPB bank into forced administration and its subsequent sale to Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka, saying it was politically motivated.

IPB was taken into forced administration a week ago after reports its reserves had fallen below the minimum level and that Nomura, which was the biggest shareholder, refused to inject new finances.

This week the bank was sold to Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka, or CSOB. The move was approved by the government, the central bank, and President Vaclav Havel - while opposition leader Vaclav Klaus said it was a "bank robbery in broad daylight."

Nomura Group bought its share in the bank during the government of Vaclav Klaus, in 1997. In a statement which breaks its silence on the scandal, Nomura said the transfer to CSOB was not transparent and that it would now act to defend its ownership rights.

SENATE-ELECTION-LAW

Czech Senators have started debating the controversial amendment to the electoral law put forward jointly by the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democratic Party, or ODS.

The bill aims to alter the current electoral system in the favour of large parties. It was a condition put forward by the ODS for supporting the current government, but some Social Democrat Senators have said they will oppose it.

There has been speculation that if the bill doesn´t go through, the ODS will cut its support for the government.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Milos Zeman said dissenting Senators should be expelled from the party - a comment which was criticised by smaller opposition parties who say the electoral amendments are undemocratic.

TAXIS

A Prague court has sentenced four taxi-drivers to four years in prison, and given a fifth man a suspended sentence, for threatening rival firms. The men were members of the Thorges taxi group, which the court said used violence and extortion to gain control of lucrative taxi stands during the 1990s.

Witnesses told how death threats were made on them or their families, and how the Thorges group threatened to burn their cars. Prague´s taxis don´t enjoy the best of reputations, and stories of turf wars between rival taxi companies have been a regular feature in the media in the last ten years.

Lawyers representing the Thorges defendents can still appeal against the court verdict - which also bans the men from working as taxi drivers for three to five years.

INTERNET-PROTEST

Czech Internet-users have begun another protest - this time in the form of a disco marathon. The music started at 11 o´clock (on Friday) (this) morning at a disco in north-east Prague and will continue for fifty hours.

A spokesman for the protest said it was against the extension of Czech Telecom´s monopoly on fixed-line telephone links and in support of the Internet generally. Czech e-surfers complain that Czech Telecom uses its monopoly to charge exhorbitant prices for Internet use.

This protest is called Fair4All and the music is being broadcast live over the Net. Around 100 discjockeys from all round Europe are taking part.

SPORT

Sport now - and the Czechs may be out of Euro 2000, but their footballers can still look forward to taking part in this year´s Sydney Olympics.

However, the heads of Czech football teams have agree not to allow a break in the domestic league season - an idea originally mooted to allow the strongest possible team to travel to Australia.

The Czech season kicks off next month, on July 28th. But last year´s runners up, Slavia Prague, begin their campaign two days earlier with the preliminary round of the Champions League.

WEATHER

And finally the weekend weather. Saturday will see a front of cooler air coming into the Czech Republic from the west, bringing cloudy skies and rain or storms in places. Temperatures will fall to between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. The trend is forecast to continue on Sunday and Monday, when temperatures may fall as low as 14 degrees.