PM lays charges against crime boss

Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda laid charges of disturbing the peace against Mikuláš Černak, a reputed gangland boss recently released from jail, in a skiing incident in which Černak allegedly forced his way into a ski lift queue. "I saw a person, who is sadly well-known in Slovakia, terrorise people waiting for the lift. I saw Mr Černák, holding a ski pole in his hand, force his way through [the queue] by pushing into people and physically threatening them. It was a very unpleasant incident," said Dzurinda, who with his bodyguards had been only metres away when the alleged crime took place. Dzurinda originally laid the charges on December 27, and then along with his bodyguards and two Polish skiers gave evidence before local police. A police investigator then declared a nation-wide search for Černak, who had been let out of jail in November after serving only half of an 8.5 year sentence for extortion and tax evasion. However, a state prosecutor later overruled the charges and called off the arrest warrant, drawing angry reactions from government officials. "It's a reflection of the state of prosecutors in this country," said Interior Minister Vladimír Palko. "I stand behind the decision of the police investigator [to issue an arrest warrant]." Since taking office in October, Palko has vowed to rid police and prosecutors of corruption, a phenomenon which in Slovakia is widely blamed for the state's failure to secure convictions or sentences against many organised crime figures. Černák's 8.5-year sentence, the longest brought against a reputed gangland boss in the country's history, was only secured after murder charges were dropped following the disappearance and recanting of key witnesses. Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic said that if the disturbance charges were eventually brought against Černák following the "additional investigation" the prosecutor required, Černák could be returned to jail to serve the remaining part of his original sentence.

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