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Reader feedback: Slovak's ticking bomb

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor, I note with great interest that Peter Jusko started another business in Slovakia on February 2, 2004, called Polyx Trade International, at the same Bratislava address (Sreznevského 17) at which Joy Slovakia used to be.

While Polyx is just a general business company, two of Jusko's business partners - Peter Bačkor and František Kobza - are also owners of the Mamba Group firm, located at the same address, which got an Economy Ministry license for arms trading effective March 4, 2002, and renewed it November 12, 2003.

Given that Peter Jusko's firm Joy Slovakia attempted to illegally export a helicopter gunship from Slovakia in 2001 on the basis of forged Guinean end-user certificates, it is incredible that his past and current business partners are again being issued licenses to trade in arms, and from the same address. From 1999, Bačkor has been the head of Jusko's OAK firm, along with another Joy Slovakia founder, Alexander Islamov.

To put this all in context: Slovakia is on the verge of entering NATO, but the Economy Ministry is still issuing arms trading licenses to companies that have, at the very least, a connection to the people and firms that a UN report in 2001 identified as being part of the arms trading empire of Viktor Bout, reputedly the world's largest illegal arms dealer.

Not only that, the police, who as far as I am aware are now required by law to scrutinise companies that apply for arms trade licenses, are apparently unaware of the connections that I have outlined above - connections that a foreigner with little knowledge of the arms trade was able to trace in a few hours from across the Atlantic Ocean.

No offence, milý Slováci, but I think NATO is crazy to be accepting Slovakia when so little has been done to fix a major problem - that the system to prevent illegal weapons exports is full of gaping holes, as the Human Rights Watch reported last month.The problem is clearly not identifying how the trade works. Not wanting to libel anyone, I won't mention names here, but a quick voyage through the business register shows a nexus of contacts with former national privatisation agency FNM officials under the third Mečiar government, current and former reputed mafia figures, and some of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) officials and firms named as having participated in the kidnapping of the former president's son, or of being involved in illegally channelling serviceable weapons from the SIS.And that's not surprising. Under Communism, people with any connection with foreign trade (like Peter Bačkor, the commercial director of the Drobný tovar Bratislava, a massive firm with responsibility for cross-border trade in consumer goods) had to have good relations with the regime and its security people. With so many of those people having remained in government, the state sector, or the SIS, it's hardly surprising that the weapons trade remains in their hands. Solving the problem means completely changing the system of control, from effective legislation to a total overhaul of staff, especially those who issue trading licenses and end-user certificates. If this is not done, Slovakia is running a huge risk of having its NATO entry blow up in its face.

Tom Nicholson,
Canada

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