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Smer party candidate denies secret service ties

ECONOMIST Maroš Kondrót, a top member of the non-parliamentary Smer party, admits to being a former classmate of ex-secret service boss Ivan Lexa. But he says his other apparent connections to Slovakia's troubled political and economic past have nothing to do with his future in the party.
Kondrót stands a strong chance of getting a seat in the legislature in September parliamentary elections, running for Smer at number 13 on the party's candidates list (Smer leader Robert Fico has said he expects to capture over 30 seats in the next parliament).
That's not a prospect welcomed by many domestic political observers, who fear Smer may prove a ladder to power for other politicians tied to top former secret service and energy sector structures.


MAROŠ Kondrót.
photo: Courtesy Maroš Kondrót

ECONOMIST Maroš Kondrót, a top member of the non-parliamentary Smer party, admits to being a former classmate of ex-secret service boss Ivan Lexa. But he says his other apparent connections to Slovakia's troubled political and economic past have nothing to do with his future in the party.

Kondrót stands a strong chance of getting a seat in the legislature in September parliamentary elections, running for Smer at number 13 on the party's candidates list (Smer leader Robert Fico has said he expects to capture over 30 seats in the next parliament).

That's not a prospect welcomed by many domestic political observers, who fear Smer may prove a ladder to power for other politicians tied to top former secret service and energy sector structures.

The political identity of Smer has been hazy since 37-year-old former communist Robert Fico founded the party three years ago. Western diplomats have long feared the party, despite its declared western orientation, represents many of the same economic and political interests that drive the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party of Vladimír Mečiar, which has been ostracised by the West for undemocratic behaviour.

From 1995 to December 1998 Kondrót was advisor to Deputy Economy Minister Jozef Brhel of the then-ruling HZDS. Brhel is number 25 on the HZDS' candidate list for 2002 elections.

From May 1995 to November 1996 Brhel was also on the supervisory board of the state-owned utility Slovenské elektrárne (Slovak electricity works, SE), whose interests in completing the construction of the Mochovce nuclear power plant have been strongly advocated by both the HZDS and Smer.

Kondrót later served for three years on the supervisory board of the company Eltrans with many people connected to SE.

"Eltrans was an SE daughter company dealing with electricity. Ownership rights were exercised by the Economy Ministry, and I was appointed by the minister to the supervisory board," Kondrót told The Slovak Spectator in a phone interview on July 26.

Former Economy Minister Ľudovít Černák in 1999 said that Eltrans had been only 66 per cent owned by SE, while the remaining stake was held by Sk Invest, a firm controlled by Vladimír Poór, a Trnava-area businessman with close ties to the HZDS.

According to an audit of SE done in 1999 by the Economy Ministry, and whose results were reported by then-SE head Štefan Košovan, the utility in 1996 signed an electricity import contract with Eltrans which cost the state utility about 20 per cent more than it would have paid to import the electricity itself.

Kondrót said he knew nothing about the case. "I was no longer with the company in 1999," he said, rejecting a business register entry which lists him as leaving the board in November 1999.

Kondrót also entered the IBeA 3 security firm in June 1997 on the same day as four other members of the Slovenská informačná služba secret service (Slovak Information Service - SIS), and remains a member of the board of directors.

Although a 1999 report on the SIS by new director Vladimír Mitro said that SIS-owned cars had been sold to IBeA 3 in a "fraudulent manner", one of many such property crimes that occurred under Lexa's 1995-1998 SIS stewardship, Kondrót said he had not been aware of any wrongdoing.

"I don't know anything about it. I know that some weapons were investigated, but I think it has been closed and that it was alright," Kondrót said.

On the day that Kondrót was elected a member of the IBeA 3 supervisory board, Lexa's secretary Ingrid Kučerová was made chairperson. Kučerová has been identified as the woman who owned a guest house in South Africa where the fugitive Lexa was cornered on July 14 by South African police before being deported to Slovakia to face charges in eight criminal cases.

Other new IBeA 3 board members included SIS economic-technical section director Mária Prutzerová (chairman of the board of directors), Prutzerová's assistant Dušan Kasan (board vice-chairman), and SIS legal representative Michal Zaťko.

Kondrót said he had known the former IBeA 3 management, which was how he came to enter the firm. "I knew those people. I knew Peter Lenko, IBeA 3 boss, because he was my classmate. Through these personal ties I got into the company's bodies, and I'm still there until today."

According to Mitro's 1999 SIS report, Prutzerová and her assistant Kasan stole Sk12.8 million ($284,000) from the SIS in line with 'Operation Elisa', in order to buy shares in various firms. Along with the SIS' Zaťko they then entered the boards of IBeA 3 and other companies they took over.

The 1999 SIS report accuses IBeA 3 of even more serious economic crimes. "The creation of this security agency, and the fact that in 1998 it took complete control over [the state owned insurance company] Slovenská poisťovňa and [the bank] Istrobanka, is fully connected with the attempts of the previous SIS director [Ivan Lexa] to take control of these financial institutions and through them a number of other significant companies," Mitro wrote.

Kondrót, however, maintains he did not know who owned the company. "When I came in, some foreign company was the shareholder. I don't know it [the foreign shareholder]. And there was a bank, which had 10 per cent."

He added that he knew little of the new group of people he entered IBeA 3 structures with: "Perhaps I had seen them around, but I didn't know them well," he said.

Jaroslav Kopčan, the current head of IBeA 3, is also the executive of a security company named Property, which is co-owned by Štefan Agh. Agh's company Gamatex in 1998 attempted to take over the Markíza TV station, in an episode Markíza co-owner Pavol Rusko still blames on the Mečiar-era SIS.

According to the 1999 SIS report, the SIS used Gamatex to intervene in Markíza because "the SIS had an eminent interest in changing the ownership of Markíza, and through that also the nature of broadcasting."

Markíza in the run-up to September 1998 elections strongly supported the parties of the then-opposition, whose landslide election victory chased the HZDS from power.

Kondrót, who studied international trade in university and is proficient in three foreign languages, sees his political future as working on the parliamentary economic committee, or perhaps as involved in EU relations.

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