The Interior Minister and financial police have warned that mafia gangs are moving into large-scale economic crime in an effort to up profits and fund their activities.
Financial police have forecasted a rise in money laundering and large scale corporate crime by organised crime gangs this year, and say banks are reporting more suspicious operations.
The modernisation of banking services, such as electronic banking, is also facilitating and assisting financial crime.
Speaking on the eve of an international conference in Bratislava on terrorism and organised crime, the head of the Slovak financial police, Jozef Stieranka, said crime gangs were now coordinating large scale tax evasion, insurance and privatisation fraud.
"These crimes are planned, long-term and are focused on bringing in huge profits. What you then have is organised crime gangs holding huge sums of money in their hands which have been gained illegally," he said.
Interior Minister Ivan Šimko echoed the same warning. He said gangs have huge financial resources and are able to bribe more and more lawyers, judges and workers in the financial sector.
Banks have also reiterated their concerns that new services are allowing criminals to easily siphon money from accounts.
"The rapid growth of modern banking services has created a new type of criminality - internet crime and the skimming of people's credit cards," Iveta Uhrinová of Tatra Banka, Slovakia's most profitable bank, told the daily Pravda.
The warnings come as domestic financial institutions are being pressed by the government to strengthen financial laws to fight organised crime gangs and terrorists who may be using Slovak banks for financing their operations.
Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová recently met with top economic bodies, including the financial police, to discuss ways of attacking economic crime.
An amendment to the Civil Code will cancel bearer accounts, while further amendments to a number of financial laws, due to be implemented soon, will widen the number of people obliged to report suspicions of illegal incomes, she said.
Financial police say they are prepared to tackle rising financial crime by cracking down on criminals before and as they attempt to legalise their revenues.
The police will focus on controlling and checking cash flows at the root of the financial system, such as the stock exchange, banks and insurance firms, said Stieranka.
29. Oct 2001 at 0:00 | Ed Holt