The Slovak Spectator has learned from well-informed sources that the general director of Devín Banka, Karol Martinka, tendered his resignation in early May.
Employees at the bank, based in Bratislava, have been banned from providing any information surrounding Martinka's status at the bank. According to Pavol Hanzel, Devín Banka's marketing division director, official information can be provided only after the general shareholders' meeting scheduled for May 26 in Martin. He did say, though, that for the time being, Martinka is on vacation. But Hanzel indirectly confirmed Martinka's departure when he said that the head of Devín Banka's legal division, Milan Markovič, had been appointed to manage the bank.
There seem to be other shifts at the top as well. The Slovak Spectator has learned that both of Martinka's deputy directors have resigned from their posts or are going to soon. Zuzana Trančíková, one of the deputy directors, was also on vacation and not available for comment. Eva Bočková, the second deputy, was at work but declined to speak to The Slovak Spectator, leaving a message with her secretary that she was too busy.
The top personnel shakeup is another shadowy aspect in the shroud of mystery that surrounds Devín Banka and its secret deals. Igor Cibula, the former espionage director in the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), called the bank a Trojan horse of Russian economic and political interests.
Cibula quit the SIS in May 1995, saying he lost Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's confidence. He stayed in the intelligence field, though, and now works for the opposition party Democratic Union as its advisor on security matters.
Cibula claims Martinka's resignation happened due to a long-lasting disagreement with Sergei Georgievich Gorodkov, the chairman of Devín Banka's board of directors and a representative of the Russian shareholding company Mezhdunarodnaya Finantsovaya Kompanya (International Finance Company - MFK). MFK is based in Moscow and was created out of the ashes of the former clearing bank for COMECON, the trade group of the former socialist countries and Russia.
''The fact that Gorodkov, a Russian citizen, is the board of directors' chairman means the Russians have a key influence in the bank, and through it, further influence on the government and political structures in Slovakia," Cibula said.
MFK and the Russian company Energija own 38 percent of Devín Banka's shares, according to published reports. [CHECK THIS WITH NBS BANK SUPERVISORY DEPT.] It is well-known that Energija represents Russian petrochemical circles directly linked to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Another 15 percent of Devín Banka bank belongs to Apis, registered as a Slovak company and based in the village of Rakovce near Turčianske Teplice in western Slovakia. According to Cibula, the capital behind Apis is also Russian, which would mean the Russians own 53 percent of Devín Banka.
The Slovak government's press office denied that the Russians own a majority of the bank. In a statement, the press office stated that 68.2 percent of Devín Banka is in the hands of Slovak shareholders, but would not specify beyond that.
Devín Banka was founded in 1992 by some Slovak cooperatives and trade unions (in education, mines and geology, and mechanical engineering) Due to the bank consistently doling out bad loans under the leadership of Vladimír Bachár, the first director, the bank became heavily indebted. According to Cibula, the bank now has bad loans worth some 900 million Sk. Its stated net profit in the first half of 1996 was 11 million Sk.
Considering the bank's debt burden, some eyebrows were raised when in summer 1995, the government decided to charge Devín Banka as the point player in recouping Russia's old debts to Slovakia worth some 30 billion Sk ($1 billion).
Devín Banka has gotten back part of the Russian debt so far, in the form of Russian MIG-29 fighter jets worth 4.9 billion Sk. Military leaders have questioned the jets' deal, saying these planes are not well-suited for the Slovak army, because they will require additional expenditures. But Devín Banka received a handsome payment for negotiating the deal - 296 million Sk.
Other developments strengthen the case of the cozy relationship between Devín Banka and Russia. For example, Devín Banka's daughter company, Devín-groupe, is a 33.5 percent owner of recently-founded Slovak Airlines, a government-blessed national air carrier. This ownership breakdown was provided by former minister of transportation Alexander Rezeš, who said in January at a press conference announcing Slovak Airlines' creation that the airline will use Russian planes that Slovakia will receive as yet another payback of Russia's outstanding debt.
''While other central and eastern European countries try to diversify their fleet of planes, our national air carrier will be oriented solely towards Russian production," Cibula said. "That is another [sign of] dependence, because we will depend on Russian service for the planes."
The well-informed source also said Martinka plans in the near future to dedicate his time to his company Vadium-Groupe which owns an unspecified bulk of shares of Piešťany Spa.
Cibula claimed that the the Bratislava-based institution landed the deal because of its close ties with the cabinet, made up of mostly of individuals from the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). ''This clearly shows the government wants to grant the bank privileged status among Slovak banks that it did not deserve," Cibula said. "There is a clear link between the people in Devín Banka and the HZDS.'' [WE NEED TO GET A GOVERNMENT REACTION TO THIS - I FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE RUNNING THIS WITHOUT A REAX]
''Each plane needs to be equipped with rockets and navigational devices, which we will have to pay for dearly," Cibula said. ''So, on the one hand we got part of the bad debt back, but on the other hand, we will have to invest millions of dollars in those planes."
[I DON'T SEE THE MILITARY EXPERT QUOTE HERE, BUT ONLY CIBULA'S - IS HE A MILITARY EXPERT ALSO?] [I ALSO DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW THE DEAL IS SO BAD ONLY IF THE ARMY HAS TO PAY FOR EQUIPPING THE PLANE - WOULDN'T THEY HAVE TO DO IF IT WERE AN AMERICAN FIGHTER JET? IT WOULD BE A DIFFERENT MATTER IF THE SUPPLIES FOR THESE MIGS HAD TO BE BOUGHT FROM RUSSIA, AND IF THEY WOULD NOT BE COMPATIBLE WITH NATO JETS AND EQUIPMENT, BUT THIS IS NOT WRITTEN HERE]
22. May 1997 at 0:00 | Zita Sujová