IN THE past few years, the term “real estate mafia” has gained public currency in Slovakia. Police and the media now use it to refer to organised groups that, lured by the rocketing value of land near larger cities, work systematically to cheat people out of their property.
According to a police source with experience of organised crime, these criminal gangs typically identify old, socially isolated or mentally ill people with significant real estate assets, and then try to win their trust while creating suspicion about the motives of family members. If their efforts are successful, the target transfers title to his land to his new ‘friends’, while foiling the efforts of his family to prevent the sale.
“We’ve had cases where the victims suffered from senility or Alzheimer’s,” said police spokesperson Andrea Polačiková.
One of the most infamous cases involved a 70-year-old pensioner who in 2005 lost her house on Lazaretská Street near Bratislava’s Old Town, where she had lived since the age of 15. Mentally ill, she suddenly and under unclear circumstances sold her house to a stranger and disappeared. Her family found her a month later in a mental hospital in Kremnica in central Slovakia; she had been committed voluntarily, but could not remember how she had got there. Her house was later bulldozed, while the site is now part of a luxury apartment complex being built on Dunajská Street.
In May 2008, Pavel Bátorfi of Bernolákovo, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, sold over 20,000 metres of land near Bratislava under similar circumstances to two new friends – Marek and Linda Lupták, owners of Autovrakovisko, a local junkyard.
Marek Lupták’s former business partner in Autovrakovisko was Peter Križanovič, a.k.a. Duran, a mafia figure who was killed by a car bomb in April 1997. According to the police source, Lupták’s brother was a policeman who served as a part-time driver for Križanovič. He was later killed outside his Petržalka apartment by members of an organised crime gang known as the Sýkorovci, allegedly in revenge for the slaying of Miroslav Sýkora in February 1997, an act which was blamed on Križanovič.
“That’s true, my husband’s brother was killed, but these are very sensitive matters, and what do they have to do with this case?” Luptáková asked.