The government BMW in which Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský was riding appears to have skidded at high speed into oncoming traffic, but police are not ruling out foul play.
The December 15 accident occurred on rain and ice-slicked roads when Čarnogurský's government BMW lost control and slid over the centre-divider line, first colliding head-on with a Russian-built Lada and then striking an Avia lorry.
A police investigator has ruled that the crash was the fault of Čarnogurský's driver, Ľubomír M. (46), and has not eliminated the possibility that the crash was a murder attempt on the Justice Minister.
Police Vice President Imrich Angyal refused to comment on speculations that the crash had been an attempt on Čarnogurský's life at a Bratislava news conference on December 18, saying only that the case was still being investigated.
A police spokesperson said that the driver had come under suspicion because of his "inexplicable" behaviour after the crash when he immediately removed the car's licence plates. The spokesperson said that his actions could have been the result of shock, but added that an investigation would continue.
The spokesperson also said that initial reports stating that the Lada had been responsible for the crash were incorrect, and that the false information could have been given intentionally.
Ľubomír M. has been charged with causing bodily harm and could face up to five years in prison if convicted. No alcohol was found in the blood stream of the driver, who was headed in the direction of Ružomberok at the time of the accident. Police said that he had been driving above the speed limit when he lost control of the car.
Two passengers in the Lada, aged 37 and 35, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Čarnogurský suffered a concussion, lacerations and a fractured cervical vertebra. He underwent spinal surgery December 17 in Banská Bystrica's Roosevelt hospital. The hospital's chief surgeon Eugen Bilík said he was satisfied that the two-hour surgery had been a success and that the patient could begin rehabilitation immediately.
Injuries to Čarnogurský could have been worse, said Ján Packa from the Interior Ministry's Office for the Protection of State Officials, had he not been in a specially armoured car. The Justice Minister had been using the armoured car, he said, because there were indications that an assassination attempt was being plotted in connection with a recently-passed law prolonging the custody of Slovakia's famous mobster, Mikuláš Černák of Banská Bystrica.
25. Dec 2000 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri