INTERIOR Minister Robert Kaliňák fired almost all the top managers of the police Organised Crime Bureau (ÚBOK) as of May 15, claiming that the new head of ÚBOK, Ivan Ševčík, had requested a fresh team to lead the fight against the mafia.
“He’s the new boss, I expect results, and he is responsible for these results,” the minister said.
Following the resignation of ÚBOK chief Ján Vaľo and Narcotics Unit boss Marián Pecko last month, the purge continued with ÚBOK deputy chiefs Peter Krajiček and Karol Kamenár, six other unit leaders and four of their deputies.
“The changes were more than necessary,” said Kaliňák. Police President Ján Packa explained that the courts were not returning a sufficient number of guilty verdicts in cases that ÚBOK officers handed over for prosecution.
But according to ÚBOK sources, the dismissals were poorly prepared, and were not based on any audit of the performance of different units or their bosses. Many unit leaders did not know until the day of their departure who would be taking their places. Asked if he had had time to properly hand over his agenda to his successor, one unit chief told The Slovak Spectator: “I can only say this – on May 14 I signed my notice of dismissal, leaving only May 15 to hand everything over. I don’t even know if I will meet with my successor, or whether it will be done through a third party.”
Other dismissed ÚBOK leaders complained of the quality of their replacements, among them the former head of the Petržalka district police, Štefan Božík, who was fired for incompetence by former Interior Minister Vladimír Palko. “Minister Kaliňák has had a lot to say about career growth within the police, but it’s not appropriate for a district chief to be elevated to the head of an ÚBOK section with no preparation for that kind of work,” said one source. Palko, who is now an independent MP, said that the changes had actually been organised by Police First Vice-president Michal Kopčík. “He is a friend of the minister, but the ÚBOK investigators don’t trust him, and suspect he is leaking information,” the former interior minister said.
Most of the dismissed ÚBOK leaders were appointed to their posts by Kopčík’s predecessor, Jaroslav Spišiak. Kaliňák fired Spišiak immediately after taking office in 2006. Kaliňák signed the most recent dismissals without giving a specific reason, a tactic that he criticised while an opposition MP from 2002 to 2006. Ján Kovarčík, an MP with the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party, a junior partner in the governing coalition, said he would ask the interior minister to explain his actions. “I want to know why he fired so many people. In these special units, you have to approach such serious changes with great sensitivity. Firing so many people could cause problems. He must have had some reason for doing so, and I want to know what it is.”
The dismissals amounted to a near clean-sweep of top ÚBOK officers. The most senior departees were Ján Vaľo, director of the unit, and his deputies, Peter Krajiček and Karol Kamenár. Jozef Greguš, director of financial intelligence, and his deputy, Juraj Zatkalík, were also despatched, as were Michal Buraľ, director of organised crime structures and head of the Bratislava region, Milan Pješčák, deputy director of organised crime structures, and Karol Linder, deputy director of the Bratislava region. Dušan Ivan, director for coordination of criminal analyses, Stanislav Smrek, director of investigations, and Martin Kubík, director of anti-terrorism, also went. Among the regional heads, Milan Jaroš, director of the western Slovakia region also lost his job. The senior officers who remain from the pre-Ševčík period include Roland Blaško, director of the central Slovakia region, Milan Lučanský, director of the eastern Slovakia region, Anna Babincová, director of human trafficking, and Martin Novák, deputy director of anti-terrorism.
19. May 2008 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson