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Banská businessman feels Mafia pressure

"I didn't sleep all night. [I was] thinking until I came up with a solution you probably won't find in any economic literature."
František MojžišFrantišek Mojžiš is not the kind of man he was two months ago. His entire universe has changed ever since he sacrificed his company with a 4-billion annual turnover, Drukos Ltd., on the altar of his personal mission of defying the Mafia.
For over a month, Mojžiš and his family have lived in a secret location in Banská Bystrica, at a place he is extremely cautious to describe in any way. In his office, he sees security guards far more often than his business partners.
"My entire life now is work, time with my closest [family and friends], and sleep - if I can," said Mojžiš, who has limited his business trips here and abroad to a minimum. His three children, ages 13, 10 and 6, didn't begin the school year with other children. Their mother stays with them at their temporary home and can only dream of a social life.


"I didn't sleep all night. [I was] thinking until I came up with a solution you probably won't find in any economic literature."

František Mojžiš


František Mojžiš is not the kind of man he was two months ago. His entire universe has changed ever since he sacrificed his company with a 4-billion annual turnover, Drukos Ltd., on the altar of his personal mission of defying the Mafia.

For over a month, Mojžiš and his family have lived in a secret location in Banská Bystrica, at a place he is extremely cautious to describe in any way. In his office, he sees security guards far more often than his business partners.

"My entire life now is work, time with my closest [family and friends], and sleep - if I can," said Mojžiš, who has limited his business trips here and abroad to a minimum. His three children, ages 13, 10 and 6, didn't begin the school year with other children. Their mother stays with them at their temporary home and can only dream of a social life.

On the afternoon of August 25, a local Mafia leader paid him a courtesy call, offering him something that mobsters call "cooperation" but cops call racketeering.

"I didn't sleep all night, [I was] thinking, until I came up with a solution you probably won't find in any economic literature," Mojžiš said.

So, on August 26, Mojžiš decided to turn his company over to the church.

The donation covered all the firm's assets and was given to the Union for Supporting the Poor and the Ill, a charity organization established the same day under the auspices of the Banská Bystrica Bishop's Office. "My only condition was that the transfer was valid pronto, that is, right now," Mojžiš said. "It was undoubtedly a unique

solution," agreed Jozef Hrtús, the Bishop's Office director and the legal representative of the newly-established union. "Somehow it reminded me of the asylum privileges that the church enjoyed in the medieval ages."

"My first gut reaction was that we'll have one more duty to care for," Hrtús continued. "But the basic question for me was - how can the church protect an entrepreneur? Since then, I've been thinking a lot about how we would cope with the kind of pressure Mojžiš faced," he said, adding that the Mafia hasn't contacted the church since the transfer.

Overnight, 600 Drukos employees went from potentially supporting the Mafia to unwittingly tithing for the needy. "Last year, our turnover was over 3 billion crowns, this year we are projecting 4 billion [Sk]," Mojžiš said. "Given the turnover, you can imagine that with the ["cooperation"] fees Drukos would [have to] pay, these circles could have perfectly armed themselves, for example."

Ambitious businessman

Drukos was established in January 1989 as a co-operative, the only way ambitious people could do business under Communism. The company finished the year with 12 employees and turnover of 5.2 million Sk. It's been skyrocketing ever since.

"The secret to our growth is probably in our constant dissatisfaction," Mojžiš explained. "Just like a climber - when he conquers a mountain, he wants to conquer a higher one. When he climbs the highest one, he wants to climb it without an oxygen tank. And so on."

As business swelled, so too did the Mafia's interest. According to Mojžiš, mobsters kicked off 1997 by casually making contact with Drukos's employees, especially the younger ones at bars and discos. "These threats were made in a sense like, 'Hey, we've heard your company is doing pretty well, we need to come and check you out soon,'" Mojžiš recounted. "Then weird phone calls, menacing messages, until you feel that the noose is tightening and expect the kick."

The heat on Drukos increased at the end of June. "We received reports about various strange, suspicious looking people snooping around our production units," Mojžiš said. "One man came to one of our retail stores asking who the owner was."

The deal

Then came the visitor who arrived in two luxury cars, proffering a deal. "I know him personally, but we were not friends," Mojžiš said. "I can tell you only that I know him from high society. He is neither an entrepreneur, nor a politician." Mojžiš refused to disclose the racketeer's name, the terms of the "contract" he offered, or which gang he is a part of.

"I won't tell you his name, because it's one of my safeguards against him killing me," Mojžiš said. "But I won't take it with me to the grave, it's taken care of that way," he adding, without elaborating.

When asked what sense it made for a successful entrepreneur to sink his entire property into charity, Mojžiš answered: "We all must think of our deeds and their consequences. As long as I can make sure that my deeds don't support evil, I have to do it. I didn't want anything of what we have created to support evil. That would be as if you climbed the mountain and instead of taking a snapshot to leave people with a nice memory, you would pick a boulder and throw it down on somebody's head."

Mojžiš was spurred to action after he heard the mob had deployed an expert to blow up one of Drukos's retail stores. On August 29, the contract on transferring Drukos's property to the church was formally concluded. Then Mojžiš publicized it, with a copy of the contract appearing on TV Markíza's main news program the same evening.

"By publicizing it, and due to the fact that the church enjoys a certain authority in Slovakia, Mojžiš achieved what he set out to," Hrtús said.

The poor come calling

He also got something else. Now that media outlets have gotten hold of this bizarre story, scores of letters asking for financial aid have hit Drukos. Because the new charity doesn't have the staff to deal with the work yet, Mojžiš's office now resembles a charity headquarters.

One of his three secretaries, Miroslava Čajová, is fully preoccupied with the work for the Union. "It was a big jump," she said. "I had to transfer almost all my regular duties on my two colleagues. It was a lot of work especially at the beginning, when the first dozens of letters arrived, because every single one had to be checked, verified and responded to one way or another."

"We gather the letters here and the secretary deals with it as a side job, without being paid for it," Mojžiš said. "She evaluates them, trying to find out which ones are eligible for aid. Especially with the poor it can be very difficult, because there may be cheaters among them applying."

By the end of September, Drukos and the Bishop's Office had received 54 letters asking for aid; 20 of them have been satisfied.

Mojžiš believes that for now, his company's assets are safe with the church. "I don't believe that anybody will come to offer a contract," he said, "because I don't think they'll try to lay their hands [on the church]. That would bring them international trouble. The whole world would go after them and they would become outlaws everywhere."

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