Prague faces $500m bill in TV station row

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The Czech government may have to pay a company controlled by the Estée Lauder family up to $500m (£344m) for failing to stop the illegal seizure of a Prague TV station.

A landmark ruling from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law found that the Czechs illegally allowed Jan Zelezny, a local media operator, to take the licence for TV Nova from his partner, US group CME. That was in 1999 after a dispute about editorial content. CME, which is chaired by Ralph Lauder, a scion of the cosmetics family, sued both Mr Zelezny and the Czech government.

CME won its case against Mr Zelezny last year, and issued an order freezing his assets. Last week it won against the Czech government and a spokesman said the government would be pursued for damages.

"CME will prove these damages exceed $500m, plus interest," said Fred Klinkhammer, CME's chief executive.