THE RELEASE of Jozef Majský from pre-trial custody on Saturday June 21 led the daily SME to publish a photo spread the following Monday showing the opulent villas of both Majský and a fellow suspect in the collapse of the BMG Invest and Horizont Slovakia, Vladimír Fruni.
When younger Slovaks see the riches of men like Majský and Fruni they must be left with the impression that crime pays. Even if the men are not found guilty of any crimes when their cases eventually come to trial, the fact remains that they have built their riches on the suffering of thousands of ordinary Slovaks, some of whom lost their life savings in BMG or Horizont.
Rich entrepreneurs involved in shady business deals and making money hand over fist at the expense of others frequently appear in the celebrity pages of magazines and newspapers.
At a local level, Slovaks see the riches of mafia bosses with their villas and their sport-utility vehicles with darkened windows, lording it over towns that they think (and in some cases, know) they own. Many people would find it easier to point out the local mafia boss than the local mayor.
National politicians are no angels either. The financing of former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar's villa in Trenčianske Teplice still lies shrouded in mystery, and almost a third of Slovaks do not trust any politicians - and of the people who do, a fifth trust Mečiar.
The only other Slovaks who get the same level of attention are sports stars, most of whom have long since left the country to settle in countries where they earn far more money.
These are among the only role models available to young Slovaks, the message being that the only ways to be successful are to screw your fellow citizens or quit the country.
30. Jun 2003 at 0:00