MIKULÁŠ Černák was acquitted of murder.
Dalibor Listig, the 21 year-old alleged head of an east-Slovak underworld gang, was remanded in custody at the end of March on charges of causing grievous bodily harm and blackmail, Police Presidium Vice-President Jaroslav Spišiak announced on March 27.
The arrest, which came after a woman told police that she had been hospitalised following a brutal beating by Listig, is the latest in a series of police crack-downs on organised crime gangs this year (see related story below).
But police chiefs fear that the accused has already started to try and influence the proceedings against him.
Spišiak revealed police had decided to publicise Listig's being taken into custody in an attempt to stop what he said had been Listig's meetings with "high-placed" officials since his arrest, mainly from the Prešov region where the Listig gang's main activities were centred.
"We can't prove anything, we just want to create public awareness," the police chief said.
Police maintain Listig, who Spišiak described as leading an "arrogant and powerful" gang, in the last two years has become one of east Slovakia's biggest organised crime bosses.
Following the November 2000 arrest of another underworld boss, Dušan Borženský, over the killing of rival gang leader Karol Kolárik, Listig and his gang had taken over the territory and operations of Borženský's gang, involved in violent crime, running prostitution rings and trading drugs.
Listig had been arrested on two separate occasions last year but not remanded in custody. In August he and other gang members were charged with serious criminal offences, but were released from custody days later.
In November last year seven of Listig's gang were charged with blackmail, but were again not remanded in custody. The judge in the case ruled there was not enough evidence to justify their being kept in custody.
Spišiak attacked the latter decision as being in harmony with law, but not the interests of society. He added that suspicion of blackmail was a sufficient reason to remand the alleged crime boss in custody.
The judiciary is viewed by many Slovaks as massively corrupt. A number of reports by domestic and foreign institutions, including the World Bank, have shown people perceive the judiciary as one of the most corrupt sectors of society.
In a survey carried out in her own court by Jana Dubovcová, chief justice of the regional court in Banská Bystrica, in April last year over a period of three weeks, 30 per cent of respondents claimed to have had direct experience of corruption, two thirds of whom said they had been asked for a bribe by a judge.
Legal proceedings against other prominent underworld figures have also been surrounded by controversy.
In October last year a regional court in Banská Bystrica acquitted Mikuláš Černák of the murder of Polish businessman Grzegor Szymanek. In one of the most high-profile trials in Slovak history, the case against Černák, already sentenced to eight and a half years in jail for extortion, collapsed when a key witness changed his testimony.
There were immediate suggestions that the witness had been put under pressure to change his testimony. The counsel for his defence was later arrested and charged with suborning the witness.
Spišiak said police were now investigating the previous proceedings against Listig.
"We were surprised by the efforts that were made to ensure Dalibor Listig did not go to prison," he said of the investigations.
8. Apr 2002 at 0:00 | Ed Holt