‘Pandora Papers’ Expose Leaders’ Offshore Millions

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 25, 2019, shows an aerial view of the financial centre of Panama City. More than a dozen heads of state and government have amassed millions in secret offshore assets, according to an investigation published on October 3, 2021, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). (Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP)

 

More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya, and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the ICIJ media consortium.

The so-called “Pandora Papers” investigation — involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.

Some 35 current and former leaders are featured in the latest vast trove of documents analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — facing allegations ranging from corruption to money laundering and global tax avoidance.

In most countries, the ICIJ stresses, it is not illegal to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across national borders.

But such revelations are no less of an embarrassment for leaders who may have campaigned publicly against tax avoidance and corruption, or advocated austerity measures at home.

The documents notably expose how Jordan’s King Abdullah II created a network of offshore companies and tax havens to amass a $100 million property empire from Malibu, California to Washington and London.

The Jordanian embassy in Washington declined to comment, but the BBC cited lawyers for the king saying all the properties were bought with personal wealth, and that it was common practice for high profile individuals to purchase properties via offshore companies for privacy and security reasons.

Family and associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — long accused of corruption in the central Asian nation — are alleged to have been secretly involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions.

And the documents also show how Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis — who faces an election later this week — failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase a chateau worth $22 million in the south of France.

“I have never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis hit back in a tweet, calling the revelations a smear attempt aimed at influencing the election.

– Tony Blair And Shakira –

In total, the ICIJ found links between almost 1,000 companies in offshore havens and 336 high-level politicians and public officials, including more than a dozen serving heads of state and government, country leaders, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and others.

More than two-thirds of the companies were set up in the British Virgin Islands.

Nearly two million of the 11.9 million leaked documents came from prestigious Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), which the ICJ said had become “a magnet for the rich and powerful from Latin America and beyond seeking to hide wealth offshore.”

Alcogal, whose clients allegedly included the Jordanian monarch and Czech prime minister, rejected accusations of shady dealings, saying it was considering legal action to defend its reputation.

“I guess it mostly demonstrates that the people that could end the secrecy of offshore, could end what’s going on, are themselves benefiting from it,” the ICIJ’s director Gerard Ryle said in a video accompanying the investigation.

“We’re looking at trillions of dollars.”

For Maira Martini, a policy expert with Transparency International, the latest investigation once more offers “clear evidence of how the offshore industry promotes corruption and financial crime, while obstructing justice.”

“This business model cannot go on,” she said.

Among the other revelations from the ICIJ investigation:

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who has been critical of tax loopholes, is shown to have legally avoided paying stamp duty on a multi-million-pound property in London when he and his wife Cherie bought the offshore company that owned it.

Members of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, are said to secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars. In a series of tweets, Khan vowed to “take appropriate action” if any wrongdoing by Pakistani citizens is established.

Vladimir Putin is not directly named in the files, but he is linked via associates to secret assets in Monaco, notably a waterfront home acquired by a Russian woman believed to have had a child with the Russian leader, The Washington Post reports.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta — who has campaigned against corruption and for financial transparency — is alleged along with several family members of secretly owning a network of offshore companies.

As well as politicians, the public figures exposed included the Colombian singer Shakira, the German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and the Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. Representatives for all three told the ICIJ the investments were legitimate and denied tax avoidance.

The “Pandora Papers” are the latest in a series of mass ICIJ leaks of financial documents, from LuxLeaks in 2014, to the 2016 Panama Papers — which triggered the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and paved the way for the leader of Pakistan to be ousted.

They were followed by the Paradise Papers in 2017 and FinCen files in 2020.

AFP

‘This One Sucks’ – Tennis Star Osaka Suffers Home Olympic Shock

Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves the court after being beaten by Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

 

 

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dreams of home Olympic gold were crushed by a 6-1, 6-4 defeat to Marketa Vondrousova Tuesday as her return to action came to an abrupt end.

Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron and was one of the faces of the Games, struggled in an error-strewn display that blew the draw wide open after the earlier exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.

Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”

The third-round defeat follows a turbulent few months for Osaka, who abandoned her French Open campaign in May after refusing to attend press conferences, citing the need to preserve her mental health.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova leaves the court after beating Japan’s Naomi Osaka in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Osaka also skipped Wimbledon, saying she had been battling depression and anxiety, before returning in Tokyo for her first Olympics including her starring role at the opening ceremony.

“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year (it) was a bit much,” said Osaka.

After looking assured in the first two rounds after her eight-week hiatus, Osaka made a dreadful start under the centre court roof at a rain-hit Ariake Tennis Park and never recovered.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well. I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher,” she said.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

 

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka competes against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

– Slow start spells the end –
Osaka dropped serve in the opening game and was broken twice more as the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova raced away with the first set.

The second seed broke in the second set but relinquished the early advantage with a double fault that allowed Vondrousova to level at two games apiece.

The 23-year-old grappled with inconsistency, and even when given a sniff of regaining the initiative she had no response to Vondrousova’s array of crafty drop shots.

Osaka saved two match points as she served to stay alive at 4-5 but Vondrousova converted at the third time of asking as the Japanese superstar smacked a backhand wide.

Vondrousova will go on to face Spain’s Paula Badosa or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the quarter-finals.

“Of course it’s one of the biggest wins of my career,” said Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up.

“Naomi is a great player, she has so many Grand Slams, so I knew it would be a tough match. I’m very happy with my play.

“I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I’m just happy to be through.”

Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina is the highest-ranked women’s player remaining in Tokyo.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Naomi Osaka after winning their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Earlier Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the men’s third round as he avenged last month’s Wimbledon loss to Frances Tiafoe.

The Greek third seed downed American Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4 in the opening match of the day as all play on outside courts was delayed an hour by morning drizzle.

Tsitsipas, who is also entered in mixed doubles with Maria Sakkari, will play France’s Ugo Humbert or Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Having lost to Tiafoe in the opening round at Wimbledon, Tsitsipas ensured there was no repeat as a single break in each set enabled him to wrap up victory in 77 minutes.

Sterling Strikes As England Beat Czechs To Top Euro 2020 Group

England's forward Raheem Sterling (R) scores the opening goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group D football match between Czech Republic and England at Wembley Stadium in London on June 22, 2021. NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP
England’s forward Raheem Sterling (R) scores the opening goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group D football match between Czech Republic and England at Wembley Stadium in London on June 22, 2021. NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP

 

England found an attacking spark to beat the Czech Republic 1-0 at Wembley on Tuesday and clinch top spot in Group D at Euro 2020.

Raheem Sterling, who kept his place alongside Harry Kane in a rejigged attack, settled fans’ nerves with an early headed goal, which ultimately proved decisive.

England boss Gareth Southgate made four changes to the side that produced an insipid display in the 0-0 draw against Scotland, handing Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka their first starts of the tournament.

Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount was unavailable as he was isolating due to coronavirus protocols while Southgate opted to leave Phil Foden out to prevent the risk of a suspension.

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire made his first appearance of Euro 2020 alongside John Stones in central defence.

Both teams had already qualified for the last 16, but top spot in the group was on the line, and with it the dubious privilege of a potential clash against world champions France, holders Portugal or Germany.

The home side started brightly in the evening sunshine and Sterling went agonisingly close in just the second minute but could only watch as his deft chip over the goalkeeper come back off the post after he collected a raking pass from Luke Shaw.

As chants of “Football’s Coming Home” rang around the stadium, captain Kane — heavily criticised for his toothless performances in the tournament so far — shot from distance and Grealish let fly.

Sterling header

England broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, when Grealish, on the left side of the penalty area, lifted the ball to the back post, where Sterling headed in for his second goal of Euro 2020.

There was a further cheer among the 22,500 fans when it was flashed up on the stadium screens that Scotland were losing 1-0 to Croatia in Glasgow.

Grealish and Saka were inventive and direct on either side of Kane, showing a willingness to run at their opponents and Kane went close midway through the first half, forcing a fine left-handed save from Tomas Vaclik and thumping the ground in frustration

But the Czechs carried a threat of their own on their forays forward, growing in menace as the half wore on.

Tomas Holes forced a flying save from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford just before the half-hour and Tomas Soucek fired wide of the left post.

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson replaced Declan Rice at half-time and the Czechs made their own change, bringing on Petr Sevcik for Jakub Jankto.

The sides were evenly matched in the opening minutes of the second half, with the reduced crowd making an impressive noise in the cavernous stadium.

Both sides made further changes as the match wore on.

Sterling and Grealish were replaced by Marcus Rashford and teenager Jude Bellingham with a quarter of the match to go among a raft of substitutions by either side.

There was a huge cheer when it was announced that Scotland were now trailing 3-1 to Croatia as the game at Wembley lost some of its intensity.

Henderson briefly thought he had scored his first England goal late on but the goal was ruled out for offside.

England finished top of Group D with seven points while Croatia are second with four points. The Czech Republic will join them in the last 16 as one of best third-placed teams.

 

AFP

Czech Threatens To Expel All Russian Diplomats

A Czech and a European Union flags flies at the Czech embassy in Moscow on April 19, 2021. Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP
A Czech and a European Union flags flies at the Czech embassy in Moscow on April 19, 2021. Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP

 

The Czech Republic on Tuesday threatened to expel all Russian diplomats from Prague, accusing Moscow of orchestrating an “unprecedented terror attack” on Czech territory in 2014.

“I am ready for everything. Even to build relationships from scratch. Which means we would send them all home,” Foreign and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Facebook.

Czech lawmakers endorsed the move later Tuesday, calling on the government to “reset relationships with the Russian Federation and significantly cut diplomat numbers at the Russian embassy in line with the principle of reciprocity”.

READ ALSO: Russia Bans Several US Officials As Tensions Escalate

Hamacek had earlier told reporters he would summon the Russian ambassador Wednesday to disclose further steps after the expulsion this weekend of 18 Russian diplomats believed by Prague to be secret agents, and of 20 Czechs from Moscow in retaliation.

“We are calling for collective action of EU and NATO countries aimed at solidarity expulsions,” Hamacek said.

The call comes after Prague accused Russian secret services of being behind an explosion at an ammunition depot near the eastern village of Vrbetice in 2014 that killed two people.

Czech police are seeking two men in connection with the blast, along with a second non-fatal explosion in the Czech Republic in 2014. The men have also been identified as suspects in the 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called the 2014 explosion “an unprecedented terror attack on our territory which is unacceptable”.

He apologised for having remarked a day earlier that the explosion did not appear to be an act of state terrorism, as it targeted goods owned by a Bulgarian arms dealer.

The Russian diplomats who were expelled left their posts at the sprawling Russian embassy in Prague on Monday, as did the staff ordered to leave the much smaller Czech representation in Moscow.

“We have expelled 18 officers of the (secret services) SVR and GRU and we are able to prove that every single one of them was just that,” Hamacek said.

He said he had summoned Russian Ambassador Alexander Zmeyevsky to protest against what Prague views as a disproportionate response in expelling 20 Czech diplomats from Moscow.

“It is only logical that if the Czech Republic takes further action, the Russian ambassador must be the first to hear it,” Hamacek said.

A NATO official told AFP the Czech ambassador to the alliance briefed his counterparts on the expulsions, adding “allies will consult on the situation with the Czech foreign minister later this week”.

Escalating tensions

As the row escalated, the Czech government announced that Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom would be excluded from a tender to build a new multi-billion-euro unit at a Czech nuclear plant.

Hamacek also said that Prague would no longer consider buying Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19.

Citing an intelligence report, the Czech government has said Russia’s military secret service GRU orchestrated the two explosions in 2014, both of which struck ammunition depots.

Babis said that the ammunition targeted belonged to a Bulgarian arms dealer who probably sold arms to entities fighting against Russia, although he did not say where.

The attacks happened the same year that Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and a conflict broke out between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels in the east of the country.

Important mission

The Czech weekly Respekt, working together with other media outlets including investigative website Bellingcat, said six GRU agents including the head of the agency’s 29155 unit, which carries out foreign operations, were involved in the explosions.

“At the moment we only know about two events involving (unit chief Andrei) Averyanov outside Russia, and given his high position in the GRU, this suggests they must have been important for the Russian government,” Respekt wrote.

The weekly identified the Czech operation as one of these two events. Bellingcat said Averyanov had travelled on one other mission — in 2015 and under a false identity — but did not give further details.

AFP was not able to verify the information independently.

Babis said Monday that the fatal attack was “fumbled”, as the military material was probably meant to explode on its way to Bulgaria and not on Czech territory.

The Bulgarian arms dealer — the Emco company owned by Emilian Gebrev — has denied any deals involving the depot at that time.

Gebrev himself was the victim of an attempted poisoning in 2015 in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, and an investigation for his attempted murder is ongoing.

AFP

Czech Republic’s ‘Wealthiest Man’ Dies In Alaska Helicopter Crash

Petr Kellner. Photo Credit: The Kellner Family Foundation

 

Petr Kellner, the Czech Republic’s wealthiest person with a fortune topping $13 billion, died aged 56 in a helicopter crash in Alaska, his spokeswoman said on Monday.

Kellner, who meticulously guarded his privacy, owned the financial, telecommunications, engineering, and insurance PPF Group, which employs 94,000 people worldwide.

“With deep regret we announce that PPF Group founder and majority shareholder Mr Petr Kellner died tragically in a helicopter crash in the Alaska Range on Saturday,” PPF Group spokeswoman Jitka Tkadlecova told AFP.

READ ALSO: Myanmar Protesters Take To Streets After Weekend Bloodbath

“The causes of the accident, in which five people died in total, are being investigated,” she added.

Czech media said Kellner was on a heli-skiing trip.

The Forbes magazine put Kellner’s wealth in 2020 at 293 billion Czech crowns (11.2 billion euros, $13.2 billion).

Kellner, who started his business selling copy machines, founded the PPF Group in 1991, two years after the fall of Communism in former Czechoslovakia.

The group with global assets worth 44 billion euros comprises Home Credit International, the world’s largest non-banking consumer lender with extensive activities on the Chinese market.

PPF recently bought the CME media group running TV companies in central and eastern Europe, as well as Telenor’s telecommunications assets in the Balkans.

Kellner’s daughter Anna Kellnerova is a two-time Czech junior show jumping champion with an ambition to appear at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Kellner’s funeral will take place “in a narrow family circle”, Tkadlecova said.

AFP

UK To Impose Quarantine On Arrivals From Switzerland, Jamaica

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

Britain said on Thursday it will reimpose quarantine for travellers from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland, but ease restrictions on arrivals from Cuba in a bid to keep coronavirus infection rates down.

The decision, which will come into effect from 0300 GMT on Saturday, will require travellers from those three countries to self-isolate for 14 days following spikes in cases.

“Data shows we need to remove the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland from our list of #Coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

“Data also shows we can now add Cuba to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors,” he added, warning that people thinking of travelling abroad should be prepared for the advice to change at short notice.

Quarantine was imposed last week on Croatia, Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago, following France, the Netherlands and several other countries on the list as governments across Europe grapple with fears of a second wave of virus infections.

Britain, which has been the hardest-hit European country by COVID-19, registering more than 41,000 deaths to date, has itself seen its number of confirmed cases creeping up in recent weeks.

Officials announced more than 1,500 new cases on Thursday, its highest total since mid-June, although hospital admissions and death rates remain low.

The UK had no quarantine measures in the early stages of the pandemic but in June imposed a blanket self-isolation requirement on all arrivals.

Weeks later it carved out “travel corridors” which exempted travellers from certain countries from quarantine.

However, the measures were reintroduced for arrivals from Spain in late July, catching airlines by surprise — as well as thousands of Britons leaving for their holidays.

The country’s struggling tourism sector has criticised the quarantine policy as overbearing and called for more targeted testing at ports of entry.

AFP

Australia Advance To World Cup Semi-Final For First Time

Australia’s Matthew Dellavedova (L) and Martin Kriz of the Czech Republic fight for the ball as Australia’s Jock Landale (R) watches during the Basketball World Cup quarter-final game between Australia and Czech Republic in Shanghai on September 11, 2019. WANG ZHAO / AFP

 

San Antonio Spurs’ Patty Mills was in sparkling form once more for Australia as they reached the Basketball World Cup semi-finals for the first time on Wednesday.

The Boomers, who had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in 11 previous appearances, defeated tournament debutants the Czech Republic 82-70 and will meet Spain on Friday.

This was undefeated Australia’s sixth win in a row in China and in doing so they avoided becoming the latest surprise casualty at this unpredictable World Cup.

Argentina stunned favourites Serbia on Tuesday while reigning two-time champions the United States were dumped out by France on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old guard Mills led the scoring with 24 points. He also had six assists and four rebounds.

Australia were heavy favourites in Shanghai against the Czechs, who bravely hung on until midway through the third quarter, when the Boomers cranked up the pressure.

Australia survived the World Cup “Group of Death” also including Canada, Senegal and Lithuania, before beating the Dominican Republic and then fellow semi-finalists France.

Veteran Australian Andrew Bogut was again loudly booed throughout by fans in Shanghai upset with a tweet he wrote in July about Chinese swimming star Sun Yang.

He goaded the crowd afterwards with a dance as he came off the court.

Czech Republic Hand Nigeria Second Defeat In One Week

BREAKING: Czech Beat Nigeria In Friendly After England Loss
(L-R) Czech Republic’s Tomas Vaclik, Josef Sural and Marek Suchy vie for the ball with Nigeria’s midfielder John Obi Mikel (C) during the international friendly football match between Nigeria and Czech Republic in Rannersdorf, Austria on June 6, 2018. VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP

 

The Super Eagles have suffered another defeat in their friendlies for the second time in one week.

Nigeria suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic on Wednesday in Austria in their final test ahead of the World Cup.

Defender Tomas Kalas, fresh from helping Fulham win promotion to the English Premier League, scored the only goal of the game in the first half in Schwechat, just outside Vienna.

READ ALSO: England Beat Nigeria In World Cup Friendly

Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles had already lost 2-1 to England at Wembley last weekend, while the Czechs — who failed to qualify for the World Cup — had lost 4-0 to Australia in their previous friendly outing.

Nigeria will face Argentina, Croatia and Iceland in a testing Group D in Russia, with their World Cup opener against Croatia in Kaliningrad on Saturday, June 16.

They will be based in Yessentuki, by the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia.

AFP

Czech Republic To Hold Presidential Vote In January

Photo: Wikimedia/David Sedlecký/ Czech Republic President Milos Zeman

The Czech Republic will go to the polls in January in only the second presidential election in the country’s modern history decided by popular vote, the Senate speaker said on Wednesday.

About 20 candidates including the incumbent President Milos Zeman have already thrown their hats into the ring ahead of the vote which speaker Milan Stech said would take place on January 12-13.

If no candidate wins an absolute majority, the vote will go to a second round on January 26-27, Stech said on public television.

Zeman, who is known for his staunch anti-Muslim, pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views, announced earlier this year that he would run for a second five-year term.

The 72-year-old former communist and Donald Trump supporter is supported mostly in rural parts of the country and is disliked by the pro-EU intellectual circles of Prague and other large cities.

Critics have expressed concern that his health is not ideal for a president. Zeman is a heavy smoker, a fan of hard liquor and suffers from impaired hearing and diabetic neuropathy, which forces him to walk with a cane.

General election in October

Among the 20 other candidates are former Academy of Sciences head Jiri Drahos and businessman Michal Horacek — who along with Zeman are currently topping opinion polls.

Drahos, a 68-year-old chemist by training, is seen as the only candidate who could beat Zeman, with a survey by the Median institute in June showing he would win 53.5 percent of a possible second round vote.

Those wishing to run for president must obtain the backing of at least 20 lawmakers or 10 senators, or gather 50,000 signatures by November 7.

The Czech president’s powers are not as extensive as those of his counterparts in France and the United States, but he can nominate or remove the prime minister and other members of government, as well as approve or veto laws adopted by parliament.

Zeman is the third Czech president since the country gained independence in 1993, following the late dissident playwright Vaclav Havel and the economist Vaclav Klaus.

Before the presidential election, Czechs will hold a general election on October 20-21.

Led by billionaire Andrej Babis, the centrist ANO party has emerged as a clear odds-on favourite for the general vote in recent opinion polls.

© AFP

Czech Republic Beat Spain To Reach Fed Cup Semi-Final

Czech Republic Beat Spain To Reach Fed Cup Semi-FinalThe Czech Republic have reached their ninth straight Fed Cup semi-final, after Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova led the reigning champions to a 3-1 victory over Spain in Ostrava.

After wins for Pliskova and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the opening rubbers on Saturday, Sunday’s action started with the score level at 1-1.

Pliskova was in dominant form and the world number three dispatched Muguruza in just 60 minutes in their tie.

However, Czech triumphed 6-2 6-2 over the French Open champion to give Strycova the chance to seal the Czech Republic’s 10th consecutive Fed Cup victory.

Kvitova Survives Knife Attack

Petra KvitovaTwo-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, has been injured by a knife-wielding attacker, believed to be a burglar, at her home in the Czech Republic.

Kvitova, 26, was stabbed in the left hand when she tried to defend herself but it has been confirmed that the injuries are not life-threatening.

She was attacked on Tuesday morning in the town of Prostejov in the east of the country, which is home to a national tennis academy.

The Wimbledon champion took to twitter to share her ordeal in the attack.

Prostejov police spokesman, Frantisek Korinek, said the attacker, who was aged about 35, escaped from the house and a manhunt is underway.

There is no suggestion she recognised her attacker, who she described on social media as an ‘individual with a knife’.

Earlier, Kvitova withdrew from the Czech Republic team in January’s Hopman Cup mixed-team tennis tournament in Australia because of a foot injury.

Euro 2016: Croatia Draw Czech Despite Crowd Violence

Euro 2016 Croatia, Czech Croatia have drawn Czech Republic 2 – 2 in the ongoing Euro 2016 championship in France, despite the violence that erupted from the Croatian end.

The crisis could be in reaction to Czech’s fightback goal, after being down by two goals to the Croatians.

This comes just as a French court jails three Russian fans for two years for their role in the violence in Marseille before the England-Russia opening match.

The watershed started in the 86th minute when some Croatians threw several flares on to the pitch after Tomas Necid replaced Jaroslav Plasil.Euro 2016 Crowd Violence

The referee, Mark Clattenburg, stopped the play when another flare was fired at an official’s direction, as fights also broke out in a section behind Petr Cech’s goal post.

The Croatians’ dream was subsequently truncated just as Clattenburg awarded a penalty in favour of Czech Republic.

Substitute Necid took advantage of the penalty to give Czech an equaliser, as they remain third in Group D while Croatia sit at the top of the group.

The crisis took place on Friday at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Etienne.