THE STEAM & Coffee chain of restaurants, in which Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák has a one-third share, pays rent to a company managed by people the police currently list as "persons of interest".
FoRest Inc., the company that operates the Steam & Coffee chain, has had its headquarters since July 2002 in a building on Miletičová Street 23 in the Ružinov district of Bratislava. According to the land records office, the building has belonged to the Liko Bratislava joint-stock company since May 2001.
All three people who sit on the supervisory board of Liko Bratislava - Mário Bednárik, Ivan Pokorný and Ivan Jakšík - are currently listed by the Organised Crime Unit of the police corps as "persons of interest" and members of an organised gang known as the "Jakšíkovci".
A "person of interest" is an international police term that describes someone who has not been charged with a crime, but who is being monitored by the police in their ongoing surveillance of the criminal environment. In 2005, a list of such people in Bratislava, dubbed the 'mafia lists', was leaked from the police.
As interior minister, Kaliňák is responsible for the work of the police, including of the organised crime unit. Although he discovered that former policemen Ivan and Libor Jakšík were persons of interest at some point "during his time on the Parliamentary Defense and Security Committee", according to his spokesman Erik Tomáš, Kaliňák has since then neither sold his share in FoRest, nor moved Steam & Coffee to another location.
Tomáš said that since 2002, when Kaliňák entered parliament as an MP for the then-opposition Smer party, "he has not been managing director of the company and has not otherwise played a role in its management. From this it is clear that the minister does not even create the impression that he is in some kind of contact with so-called persons of interest."
But Emília Sičáková-Beblavá, director of Transparency Inter-national Slovakia, said the minister should have dealt with the issue far earlier.
"Technically it might not involve a conflict of interest, we would have to see the company's rental bills to see if it is paying the same as the other tenants of the building or has been given some other kind of advantage," she said. "But this matter is a problem in itself. The minister should have been much more careful, and he should have taken action as soon as he gained the information. Given their powers, interior ministers face far more strict standards of conduct. The fact that this situation has existed for a longer period of time is inexcusable."
Ivan Pokorný, who is the technical director of building owner Liko Bratislava, denied having any links to organised crime. "I am not aware that the police register my name in connection with persons of interest, and I regard it as a lie and a libel," he said. "I have never had anything to do with organised crime, nor do I now, and any claims to the contrary are untrue and a lie."
Pokorný is the central figure in a group of security companies that operates under the brand A-Team, and which also have their headquarters at Miletičová 23. He is on the supervisory board of A-Team group, A-Team system, A-Team detektiv, and A-Team security, which provided security for Kaliňák's victorious Smer party on election night in 2006.
"A-Team security got this contract on the basis of a tender held by a private company, and never held any negotiations with a member of Smer," Pokorný said.
Pokorný also sits on the supervisory board of the joint stock company AKUS of Miletičová 23. At the end of last year, the chairman of the Banská Bystrica regional parliament, Milan Murgaš of the Smer party, signed an agreement to pay a debt of Sk303 million to AKUS without first securing the approval of the regional parliament. The debt arose in 1997 from an unpaid bill of Sk300,000 for work on a social services building in the small town of Detva that had been done by a construction firm from Zvolen. The construction contract set harsh penalty conditions under which the unpaid sum increased by 3 percent per day.
Asked if it was merely a coincidence that AKUS and A-Team were located in the same building as the minister's restaurant, Tomáš said that "the minister does not know these firms or their representatives."
But Pokorný denied this information. In February 2002, Kaliňák and four partners founded the Equity law firm at Miletičová 23. Pokorný said that "during the time when he [Kaliňák] worked as a lawyer at the law office at Miletičová 23, I met him occasionally like any other tenant".
2. Jun 2008 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson