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EDITORIAL

Gavorník abroad: Improving poor English

Štefan Gavorník, the former head of the FNM privatisation agency charged with taking a 17 million Slovak crown bribe to grease a privatisation deal while in office under the Mečiar government, has succeeded where hundreds of ordinary Slovaks have failed. Having been issued a visa by the British Embassy in Bratislava, he is - apparently - happily studying English at a course in Great Britain. He intends - he swears - to return to Slovakia to face any charges against him.
The Slovak Spectator certainly doesn't intend to lecture the British Embassy on how to conduct its business. But given the many current and former politicians and state officials now facing charges for fraud and abuse of power, it would help the cause of justice in Slovakia if foreign embassies could resist the powerful arguments of men like Gavorník to be allowed to improve their language skills beyond the reach of the law.

Štefan Gavorník, the former head of the FNM privatisation agency charged with taking a 17 million Slovak crown bribe to grease a privatisation deal while in office under the Mečiar government, has succeeded where hundreds of ordinary Slovaks have failed. Having been issued a visa by the British Embassy in Bratislava, he is - apparently - happily studying English at a course in Great Britain. He intends - he swears - to return to Slovakia to face any charges against him.

The Slovak Spectator certainly doesn't intend to lecture the British Embassy on how to conduct its business. But given the many current and former politicians and state officials now facing charges for fraud and abuse of power, it would help the cause of justice in Slovakia if foreign embassies could resist the powerful arguments of men like Gavorník to be allowed to improve their language skills beyond the reach of the law.

To be fair, Gavorník was able to flee the country largely through lack of internal coordination between Slovakia's various police bodies. An indictment against Gavorník was produced by the Interior Ministry May 3, and on the following day the ministry asked the Border and Aliens police department of Bratislava District IV to take Gavorník's passport away from him. Because the Border and Aliens police have from 30 to 60 days to decide on such requests, Gavorník's passport was not actually revoked until June 8 - by which time he had already fled to the Czech Republic and thence England with a visa issued May 24 in his pocket.

British Embassy consul Simon Digby said that while he was unable to discuss specific visa applications with the media, in general the embassy sought advice from London if there were likely to be problems in specific cases. In the absence of instructions from the Slovak police to the contrary, he said, the embassy faced a difficult task in identifying baddies like Gavorník among the hundreds of applications they dealt with daily.

That, of course, is the textbook version. Articles on the charges against Gavorník first appeared in the Slovak press on May 16, meaning that the embassy must have been aware of what was afoot (unless they rely for their only source of Slovak news on The Slovak Spectator, which regrettably did not cover the case until an issue dated May 29). So why, when so many Slovaks are denied visas for so many reasons, did the penny not drop when the embassy received Gavorník's application?

We don't want to be mean, but with so many former crooks running around and looking for a way out (former secret service boss Ivan Lexa's application for a Spanish business licence is now under review by Interpol), foreign embassies simply have to be a bit quicker on the uptake. Whatever the news from London.

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