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Vol 3, No 9
5 March 2001
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Czech newsNews from the
Czech Republic

All the important news
since 24 February 2001

Mark Preskett


Pressure mounts on Železný

View today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

The trials and tribulations of Vladimír Železný, director of Czech TV Nova, continued this week when a New York district court froze his US Citibank account and summoned him to attend a court hearing. The court's decision came in response to an earlier verdict reached by international arbitrators in Amsterdam. It was there that Železný was ordered to return USD 27.1 million to the American firm, Central European Media Enterprises (CME).

"We issued a court order stating that he must immediately attend a hearing. It isn't normal legal practice to be summoned at once but this case warrants it," argued New York district court attorney, Seiji Newman. Apart from freezing Železný's bank account, the court also seeks to discover if he has other accounts or assets in the US.

According to Železný's spokesman, Martin Chalupský, Železný himself will not attend next week's hearing, but will send a lawyer to represent him. Železný told the national daily, Lidové noviny, that the Citibank account holds only maintenance fees.

The American court is the second foreign institution to react to the arbitrators' verdict by freezing Železný's assets. Last week the French court, at the behest of CME, seized the furnishings of a castle belonging to his wife.

The dispute between CME and Mr Železný centres around USD 23 million which CME gave Železný, allowing him to gain a controlling share in the company, CET 21. This company holds the license for transmitting TV Nova. Two years ago, CME decided that Mr Železný was not holding to their agreement and tried to dismiss him from the post of General Director. However, he managed to outmanoeuvre CME and began broadcasting alone.


Another high profile arrest

Just two days after he was taken into custody, the chairman of Českomoravské fotbalové svaz (ČFS), František Chvalovský, was released from prison after posting bail of CZK 10 million (USD 267,993). Mr Chvalovský was arrested by police on Tuesday at Prague's Ruzyňé airport as he prepared for travel to Macedonia with the Czech soccer team.

Three years ago, Komerční Banka loaned the chairman of ČFS CZK 640 million (approximately USD 17 million) to be spent on pork, which would be sold in Germany. Police, however, have reason to believe that Chavlovský used the money for alternative purposes, including paying off debts owed to another bank. Chavlovský has admitted that he did not use the money for the purchase and export of meat, but denies that a crime was committed.


Havel's fighting fit

It has been a good week for Czech President Václav Havel. On Saturday, he was released from the hospital following almost two weeks of treatment for mild pneumonia and bronchitis. The President became ill on 12 February during an official visit to Kuwait and had to be flown back to Prague for treatment.

On Tuesday, the Czech Constitutional Court upheld Havel's challenge to a controversial new election law. The law struck down legislation modifying the proportional election system. The court declared the law both unconstitutional—as a result of its doubling state subsidies per representative to CZK 1 million (USD 26,799)—and biased in favour of the larger parties in the lower house.

By Thursday, Havel had recovered sufficiently to meet with his Slovak counterpart, Rudolf Schuster. At their meeting, he promised President Schuster that the Czech Republic would invite Slovakia into NATO. Speaking at a press conference Havel said: "It seems to me that it is more than probable that Slovakia will be among the new countries in the alliance."


Zeman fined

A Czech court fined Prime Minister Miloš Zeman, CZK 300,000 (USD 8,039)on Wednesday for accusing a journalist of corruption without providing evidence. The ruling came just days after Zeman was forced to apologise to a former parliamentary deputy for making false statements.

The Prague City court ordered the Prime Minister to apologise to Ivan Březina for accusing him of being paid by the state utility giant, ČEZ, to write favourable articles about its controversial Temelín power plant. Mr Zeman has 14 days to appeal the decision.

Over the weekend, Zeman apologised to former Social Democrat deputy (ČSSD), Josef Wagner, for saying that not even the Communists wanted him in their party. Wagner took legal action and a court ordered Zeman to make a public apology.


Temelín resumes testing

The nuclear power plant, Temelín, in South Bohemia began testing operations this week after a month-long shutdown to discover the reason for excessive vibrations in the non-nuclear section of the reactor. Temelín spokesman, Milan Nebesař, said that the plant was given permission to relaunch operations by the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB).

Environmental activists, who have blockaded border crossings and organised a number of demonstrations since Temelín was first launched last October, were unsurprisingly opposed to the reactivation of the plant and have promised more blockades.

This week, Ed Fagan, American lawyer extraordinaire, demanded that the US firm Westinghouse, which was brought in by the Czech government to upgrade security systems, submit documents on the delivery of control and safety systems to Temelín. He added that he would "cause pain in the senior management ranks" if Westinghouse failed to comply.

Mark Preskett, 2 March 2001

Moving on:


Hospodářské noviny
Lidové noviny
Mladá fronta Dnes
ČTK—Czech News Agency

Today's updated headlines from the Czech Republic and Slovakia

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