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Growing up in the western Slovak village of Horná Streda, eight kilometres north of Piešťany, Vlastimil Vicen was a "very smart and mischievous kid," said a former classmate who smiled as he recalled the adolescent shenanigans the two would get up to together.

Sitting in a local village pub on September 5, the man said he hadn't seen Vicen in person since he left for university years ago. He had, however, followed his friend's exploits in the Slovak tabloids with great interest. Vicen's drunk-driving accident outside Bratislava in April this year, and his presence in July at the funeral of underworld boss Peter 'Žaluď' Steinhubel came to mind, the man said.

For many Slovaks, however, former MP Vlastimil Vicen is an example of the cleptocrat tendencies they have hated in the country's politicians over the past ten years.

Vol. 5 No. 34, Sept. 13-19, 1999

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