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Court postpones verdict on lawyer who helped uncover bribery

THE SUPREME Court has put off handing down a verdict until February in the case of a lawyer who cooperated with the police as an undercover agent to sting a corrupt colleague.

The Slovak bar association (SAK) stripped lawyer Mária Mešencová of her membership after she helped police arrest a colleague, Pavol Polakovič, who had offered to bribe her and her client.

Polakovič allegedly wanted Mešencová to convince her client to change his testimony in a major organized crime fraud case involving oil imports. After she was approached, Mešencová contacted the police, who in September 2004 caught Polakovič as he was offering Mešencová a Sk30,000 bribe.

The SAK later debarred Mešencová, arguing that by working as a police agent, she had both endangered the right of her client to confidentiality and independent counsel, and violated the Advocacy Act.

Polakovič was found guilty on bribery charges, but has appealed the verdict.

Many legal experts have criticized the bar for shooting the messenger rather than addressing the issue of corruption in its ranks.

“It is unacceptable for someone to lose their livelihood because they acted honestly,” said former Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic, who is representing Mešencová in the case.

“It is also unacceptable for evidence obtained by using a police agent to be considered as valid in one case, and as a gross breach of the Advocacy Act in another.”

The SAK argues that the profession of a lawyer is incompatible with service as a police agent, because in becoming an agent lawyers allow another authority to guide their actions.

According to SAK Deputy Chairwoman Sarina Michalicová, Mešencová also acted incorrectly in failing to inform the bar when she reported the case to the police.

The Supreme Court heard both parties on January 21 and gave itself until February to announce its ruling.

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