Patrik Pachinger (above) and Jozef Majský deny any wrongdoing in the collapse of unlicensed deposit funds
JOZEF Majský and Patrik Pachinger, former businessmen allegedly involved in the tunnelling of investment funds Horizont Slovakia and BMG Invest that collapsed last year, were released from custody on June 21, to the dismay of thousands of people who lost billions of crowns in the ventures.
The two men had spent eight months in custody, when a Košice judge decided that there was no longer any reason to keep them under lock and key.
Those who lost a combined total of around Sk18 billion (€428 million) to BMG and Horizont said they were flabbergasted at the judge's decision, while justice and interior ministers Daniel Lipšic and Vladimír Palko called the ruling "absurd" and "shameful" respectively.
Two other men accused in the collapse of the unlicensed investment firms were kept behind bars. The Košice district court extended the pre-trial custody of former owners Vladimír Fruni and Marián Šebeščák until September 29.
BMG Invest and Horizont Slovakia went bankrupt at the beginning of last year, along with several other similar funds - such as AGW Slovakia - which promised a 30 to 40 percent return on investment deposits.
Majský managed to escape media crews that had gathered in front of the Leopoldov jail early on June 21 by persuading penitentiary staff to let him go before 6:00, well ahead of the usual release time.
Pachinger, who was released later, told media that in the investigation files there was "not a single shred of evidence that any of my actions were against the law".
Majský was reportedly picked up by a dark-coloured Mercedes and, avoiding his home in central Bratislava, was then taken to an unknown place. He later pledged to the Národná obroda daily that he was not going to try to influence witnesses in his case.
"I don't need to influence anyone - quite the contrary. I would welcome the investigation closing as soon as possible, so that it can get to the attorneys and to the court. Perhaps idealistically, I am relying on the truth to gradually come out," he said.
MAJSKÝ in better times.
photo: File photo
Since then, he has been in pre-trial custody on the grounds that he might try to flee the country, influence witnesses, or tamper with the ongoing investigation of the case.
The possible risk of flight following the ruling of Košice justice Ján Poprocký, moved Justice Minister Lipšic to describe the decision to release the two men as "absurd". The minister also said that although Slovak judges have gained much independence since judicial reform began five years ago, many still failed to take full responsibility for their verdicts.
Majský is thought to be one of Slovakia's richest businessmen, and is believed to have gained considerable influence and substantial assets during the 1990s, largely through his good relationships with various politicians.
Interior Minister Palko refused to comment on whether he thought Majský would attempt to flee the country. He said, however, that he would encourage investigators "not to be disheartened [by the release] and to continue investigating the case".
"The judge [in Košice] apparently thinks that a man who is being prosecuted because he stole [money] from thousands of people should walk free until a [final] court ruling is delivered. That is shameful," Palko added.
Pachinger, Majský, and three others are suspected of tunnelling BMG and Horizont and of having worked as an organised criminal group to transfer the firms' property, even after the companies' branches were closed to clients due to bankruptcy.
One of the remaining suspects - Dávid Brtva - is in extradition custody in the Czech Republic, and the other two - Fruni and Šebešcák - are in Slovak jails. They were the legal representatives of BMG Invest and Horizont Slovakia, and are accused of fraud and unlawful self-enrichment.
Some of the businessmen involved in the case were public figures, regularly appearing in the celebrity gossip pages of the local papers. Majský, the owner of a family holding firm called Sipox, for example, enjoyed showing off evidence of his luxurious lifestyle, including hunting trophies from Africa.
Many victims blamed former and current cabinets for enabling these firms to run for years without proper state supervision, and some of the creditors have called for compensation to be granted from state budget funds.
On his release, Pachinger said that he had prepared a compensation plan in jail, and that it would not cost the state a single crown.
Although he would not go into details, he added: "The bad news is that while [Prime Minister Mikuláš] Dzurinda occupies the top cabinet chair, an agreement [on the compensation of victims] will most likely not come into question."
Dzurinda would not comment on the case.
30. Jun 2003 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová