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Lawyers cannot assist police in uncovering corruption

LAWYERS cannot accept the role of police agents even if it is to help uncover corruption, according to a ruling by the Supreme Court.

The court ruled yesterday that Mária Mešencová, a lawyer from Piešťany, was wrong to have helped police snare another lawyer who had offered her a bribe to help influence a verdict. According to the court, in accepting the role Mešencová has placed her to some extent under police control, which prevented her from freely and independently defending the interests of her clients.

At the same time, however, the Supreme Court overturned an earlier decision by the Slovak Bar to expel Mešencová, which would have meant that she could never again have worked as a lawyer.

The verdict was criticized by anti-corruption watchdogs as encouraging corruption in the legal system.

Emília Sičáková-Beblavá of the Transparency International Slovakia NGO told the Pravda daily that the decision “will not help expose corruption among lawyers.

“Both this case and various polls suggest that corruption among lawyers exists,” she said.

Back in 2004, police arrested lawyer Pavol Prokopovič as he was handing a Sk100,000 bribe to Mešencová, who was acting as a police agent. Prokopovič had promised Mešencová the money in return for convincing her client to change his testimony to benefit one of Prokopovič’s clients.

In November 2006, the Special Court for organized crime and corruption found Pavol Prokopovič guilty, and gave him a two-year suspended sentence.

According to Sičáková-Beblavá, the Slovak Bar is unwilling to confront corruption in its ranks and is putting the interests of its members over those of the public.

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