NEWS BRIEFS

Big mafia boss Mikuláš Černák goes on trial

Slovakia's largest-ever court trial of an alleged gangster group was scheduled to begin on November 8 in Banská Bystrica. Mikuláš Černák, central Slovakia's reputed organized crime boss, is in the dock with eight accomplices; all are accused of racketeering, tax fraud and smuggling, while Černák is also on trial for kidnapping and murder. The trial will be held in the local prison, for security reasons, while media and the public will be allowed into the courtroom.

Presiding Justice Ľubomír Samuel said that special additional security arrangements had been taken for the prison and the courtroom. The trial will begin with the reading of the 181-page indictment (investigation files contain over 6,000 pages of documents) and will continue with the questioning of the nine defendants.

About 50 witnesses are scheduled to be summoned to testify, including a concealed witness for the first time in Slovakia's history. The witness will testify using a special device preventing the disclosure of his identity. The underworld has allegedly offered 25 million Slovak crowns for the murder of this person, who has already survived one assassination attempt

Mikuláš Černák, Ján Kán and Miloš Kašťan, the main defendants, own Security 3, a civil security service. Černák surrendered to police in December, 1997. Justice Samuel said that if all goes well, a verdict in the case could be handed down in mid-December.

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