This Boeing 707 freighter carrying Slovak arms for Chad crashed at Bratislava airport February 7, 1999.
Jaroslav Spišiak, a senior officer at national police headquarters with responsibility for weapons trade crimes, said that a Banská Bystrica regional detective had started the investigation on November 21 into the activities of Peter Jusko and his arms trading firms Joy Slovakia and Pecos, Guinea.
Jusko and his two firms were named in a special United Nations report on Liberian weapons sanctions published in late October. He was accused of supplying false end-user certificates to a gang of international arms dealers that included Russian nationals Alexander Islamov and Viktor Bout.
In February 2001 Slovak customs officers seized a helicopter gunship from Kyrgyzstan that Jusko's Pecos firm had bought from a renegade Kyrgyz army general. An earlier gunship bought by Pecos had been repaired at a Defence Ministry site in Trenčín and then exported to an unknown destination in August 2000.
Spišiak said his police unit had studied Jusko in the past, but had been unable to gather enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges.
The financial crime police branch had also probed Jusko's activities in 1998 on the basis of a request from Ukraine's head investigator for the illegal arms trade, Spišiak said.
An MI-24 helicopter, pictured above, was among the military hardware allegedly traded by Jusko.
However, the UN report claimed that Joy Slovakia had in 1997 negotiated a Slovak Defence Ministry arms deal with Guinea on the basis of a falsified end user certificate:
"Mr Jusko was already known to the Slovak authorities as a director of an arms brokerage company called Joy Slovakia. The military in the Slovak Republic had previously done business with Joy Slovakia and showed the panel a copy of an end-user certificate of the company for the sale of small arms to Guinea in 1997. The UN panel later verified in Guinea that the arms had never been ordered by the Defence Ministry there. The end-user certificate was a forgery."
One criminal law expert said that if the UN report's findings were true, a criminal investigation of Jusko and his Joy Slovakia firm could have begun sooner.
"If he submitted a document he had forged to a Slovak state organ, this at least involves the crime of document forgery. It could be fraud and many other things, but I'd have to study the case to be able say. It's very difficult to say anything definite when I have nothing concrete in front of me," said Ján Hrubala, former Deputy Chief Justice for criminal law at Banská Bystrica regional court.
František Blanárik, who under the 1994 to 1998 Mečiar government was the head of a government licence commission which regulated the country's arms trade, said Joy Slovakia had been issued with an arms export licence under his tenure on several occasions. But he said he could no longer remember the details of the transactions, nor did he now have access to the relevant documents.
Since September 2001, Blanárik has been a member of the supervisory board of Petina International, a Slovak firm which buys and sells precious stones and trades in weapons.
Other members of Blanárik's licence commission included Igor Furdík and Leopold Bilčík. Furdík was Foreign Ministry security section director under the Mečiar government and was appointed Slovak ambassador to Moscow in October 1998 by the outgoing Mečiar cabinet. Bilčík was the former director of logistics at the Defence Ministry and from 1999 to June 2000 sat on the supervisory board of arms trader DMD Holding.
A source close to the country's current arms control regime, who requested anonymity, said he and his colleagues had known of Jusko for several years, but had been powerless, given the country's poor arms control laws, to proceed against him.
"We heard from the Americans about 18 months ago that Joy was trying to mediate some business," the source said. "We knew about him, but the information we had wasn't the type which would have allowed us to proceed legally."
Under Slovak law, an arms exporter does not need a licence if the goods being exported are not changing ownership, for instance in the case of an extended 'lease' to a foreign government or non-state actor. In such cases, permission to cross the border with the goods lies with the customs directorate.
The source also said that Jusko's Pecos firm had applied "with perfect documentation" in 2000 to export 5,000 AK47 submachine guns to a South American country, but that the transaction on investigation had proven fraudulent.
"Joy is smart - they broker arms in a way that doesn't require their presence in Slovakia, and they don't go through the licence commission," the source said.
"All we can do at this point is to provide information to others that will prevent Jusko from doing these deals."
3. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson