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Former spy boss Lexa ends year in custody

CHASING down former secret service director Ivan Lexa over charges in connection with numerous activities while he was in office from 1995 to 1998 - including sabotage, the kidnapping of the former president's son and fraud - was one of the most dramatic stories of 2002.
Investigations into his behaviour while in office had been hampered by the fact that Lexa, a member of Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), was elected to parliament in 1998, and as an MP enjoyed parliamentary immunities. The parliament freed the investigators' hands in 1999 by allowing a criminal investigation into the various allegations.
In 2000, he was arrested and held briefly in custody. When released, Lexa fled the country pursued by an international Interpol warrant for his arrest. After two years, Slovakia welcomed Lexa back home in 2002, and the cat-and-mouse game began again:


VICTORY in August, but not for long.
photo: Pravda: Roman Benický

CHASING down former secret service director Ivan Lexa over charges in connection with numerous activities while he was in office from 1995 to 1998 - including sabotage, the kidnapping of the former president's son and fraud - was one of the most dramatic stories of 2002.

Investigations into his behaviour while in office had been hampered by the fact that Lexa, a member of Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), was elected to parliament in 1998, and as an MP enjoyed parliamentary immunities. The parliament freed the investigators' hands in 1999 by allowing a criminal investigation into the various allegations.

In 2000, he was arrested and held briefly in custody. When released, Lexa fled the country pursued by an international Interpol warrant for his arrest. After two years, Slovakia welcomed Lexa back home in 2002, and the cat-and-mouse game began again:


April 10 - The daily Národná Obroda reports that Lexa is considering returning to Slovakia and running again as a member of parliament for the opposition HZDS party. The paper, citing Lexa lawyer Juraj Trokan, says Lexa's decision will depend on the outcome of four criminal cases in which he features as the defendant and which involve fraud and sabotage.


May 15 - The Bratislava III District Court returns for further investigation a case against former members of the SIS secret service who in 1995 allegedly tried to discredit a bishop in the sale of a valuable triptych painting of The Three Kings.

The court's decision means that not one of the serious charges against the SIS from its time under the leadership of Ivan Lexa - including fraud, sabotage and the kidnapping of the former president's son - would be resolved before the end of the first Dzurinda government's term in office.


June 5 - The Bratislava III district court halts prosecution in another case against Lexa, this time in the theft of a Mercedes car allegedly used to kidnap the former president's son in 1995. The court rules that an amnesty issued in the case by former acting president Vladimír Mečiar makes it impossible to proceed.

The court also returns two further Lexa cases for further investigation: The placing of an explosive in 1998 at an election rally of the Christian Democrats, then in opposition, and the theft of equipment used for bugging mobile telephones.


July 14 - Acting on information from Slovak police, South African special forces arrest Lexa at a pleasure resort in the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. Several days later, as South Africa agrees to deport him as an illegal alien, he is flown to Slovakia from Johannesburg through Zürich and handed over to Slovak Interpol by two South African Interpol agents.


July 18 - Lexa is escorted back to home soil by South African police after more than two years as an international fugitive. He emerged from a commercial flight in Bratislava two years and eight days after fleeing the country. After an identity check in Bratislava lasting about 40 minutes, Lexa is taken to Bratislava police headquarters.


July 20 - A Bratislava court decides that Lexa should be remanded in custody indefinitely while awaiting trial.


August 16 - Lexa smiles and flashes a victory sign to journalists as he leaves pre-trial custody. Lexa is released following a Supreme Court ruling that a lower court judge had been biased in taking Lexa into custody. The panel of judges who issued the decision adds that the lower judge had not been authorised to rule on jailing Lexa.


September 17 - Over 16 months after first receiving the case, a Bratislava region court judge returns charges of alleged asset stripping at the SIS secret service under the 1995-1998 tenure of Ivan Lexa to a state prosecutor for further investigation. The case involves the alleged setting-up of companies through which the SIS leadership channeled millions of crowns in state funds.


September 29 - Lexa is released from hospital after doctors fail to find anything wrong with him. Lexa had entered the Bratislava facility a week before complaining of a heart ailment. On leaving the hospital, however, Lexa was charged with two further counts of abuse of power from his time at the head of the SIS.


December 5 - Lexa is arrested and taken into police custody charged with ordering a murder, misuse of powers and endangering state secrets. Interior Minister Vladimír Palko says that Lexa had been charged with ordering the car bomb killing of former police officer Robert Remiáš on April 29, 1996.

Palko said Lexa promised hired killers "a minimum of Sk2 million ($48,000)" to carry out the murder, which was part of an attempt to thwart the investigation of the 1995 kidnapping of former president Michal Kováč's son.


December 8 - After four hours of hearings, a Bratislava Distict Court judge decides that Lexa will stay in custody. Lexa later says the case is "ruining his life", and asks why police couldn't have waited until after Christmas to lay charges.

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