Lexa found not guilty in artwork case

THE REGIONAL Court of Bratislava has cleared Ivan Lexa, the former head of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), of wrongdoing in an alleged 1995 plot to discredit a Slovak bishop. Lexa has thus managed to clear his name of all of the charges laid against him going back to his 1995-1998 leadership of the

Ivan Lexa, the former boss of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), and his lawyer Ján Cuper, who also served as an MP of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, respond to the latest verdict freeing Lexa on abuse of power.
photo: SME - Pavol Funtál

THE REGIONAL Court of Bratislava has cleared Ivan Lexa, the former head of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), of wrongdoing in an alleged 1995 plot to discredit a Slovak bishop. Lexa has thus managed to clear his name of all of the charges laid against him going back to his 1995-1998 leadership of the SIS under the former government of Vladimír Mečiar.

With the latest verdict, the regional court on April 26 overturned an original decision by the Bratislava II District Court from January 25, 2005, when Lexa was found guilty of abuse of power and was fined Sk500,000 (€12,987).

The most recent case began early in 1995, when members of the SIS allegedly discovered that the Banská Bystrica diocese office had ordered a copy of The Adoration of the Magi triptych painting, and intended to sell the original.

An SIS agent masquerading as a Swiss citizen named Thomas Grabner bought the painting for $200,000. It was alleged that the use of the money for the purchase was approved by Lexa. The police later searched the diocese office after the staged sale.

According to the results of the police investigation, the SIS performed and monitored the transaction illegally, intending to discredit the diocese and the bishop of Banská Bystrica, Rudolf Baláž, the TASR news agency wrote.

The painting was returned to the Banská Bystrica diocese office on November 17, 2000 and is currently part of the Slovak National Gallery collection.

The government led by Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda apologized to the diocese office for the activities of state bodies during the former Mečiar government.

Daniel Lipšic, the former Justice Minister, called the verdict of the Bratislava Regional Court "scandalous", particularly for the court's claim that no intent had been identified in the setup. He appealed to the ministry to make use of a special channel of appeal. The ministry refused to comment.

Lexa was also charged with the fictitious employment of non-existent people, involvement in the 1995 kidnapping of former President Michal Kováč's son, the sale of SIS weapons that were supposed to have been destroyed, and breach of budget rules - all of which he was found not guilty. The prosecutor's office has yet to decide whether to charge Lexa in the hit murder of police informant Robert Remiaš, who was killed by a car bomb on April 29, 1996.

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