Top policeman becomes a person of interest

POLICE Vice-President Michal Kopčík has been named as a person of interest in three recent criminal cases.The most recent case involves Ernest Šimonič, a witness in the country’s biggest organised crime case, who allegedly saw Kopčík illegally sell a machine gun, the Sme daily reported on September 17.

POLICE Vice-President Michal Kopčík has been named as a person of interest in three recent criminal cases.The most recent case involves Ernest Šimonič, a witness in the country’s biggest organised crime case, who allegedly saw Kopčík illegally sell a machine gun, the Sme daily reported on September 17.

Kopčík is also suspected of having illegally obtained weapons for his shooting club, the daily wrote.

And Kopčík admitted in May to having borrowed a police surveillance device called a Bulldog, but has denied he broke the law in doing so.

Despite the suspicion surrounding him, the parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security and Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák have stated that Kopčík has not lost their trust.

A resolution recently adopted by the committee states that because Kopčík has not been officially charged with selling the machine gun illegally, there is no reason to suspend him.

“I am surprised that the opposition is taking a mafia boss’s words so seriously,” Kaliňák told media after the committee’s session. “This is just a case of political grandstanding.”

Kaliňák added: “This is a standard tool by organised crime, which aims to portray the police as untrustworthy.”

But according to the Sme daily, Military Prosecutor Vladimír Zajáček has not eliminated Kopčík as a suspect in the machine gun case.

General Prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka assured the committee that the investigation would be complete by the end of September.

“The military district prosecutor’s office in Bratislava is not working on a criminal case in which the vice-president of the police stands accused,” Trnka confirmed to journalists.

In an interview with The Slovak Spectator, Trnka refused to go into detail on the case, referring instead to the information already published in Sme.

Zajáček told Sme that Kopčík is suspected of working with two accomplices to obtain a large number of machine guns that had been declared damaged. The guns were from the Military Maintenance Facility (VOP) in Moldava nad Bodvou and were obtained between 1997 and February 2008.

Šimonič testified that the machine guns were fully functional when they were used in the Combat Club in Bardejov, in eastern Slovakia.

“So [according to the testimony], policeman [Kopčík] was in possession of automatic weapons without permission, and did so with intention and as a member of an organised group,” Zajáček told Sme.

Other members of the Combat Club Bardejov include Miroslav Sim, head of personnel at the Defence Ministry, former interior minister Vladimír Palko told The Slovak Spectator.

Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák is also alleged to have attended the club.

“I personally questioned Šimonič, who testified about several deeds in which several policemen are suspects, as well as officials and former officials,” Zajáček added.

In response, opposition MPs on the parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security submitted a resolution that the accusations had cast an unfavourable light on the police. But coalition MPs on the committee rejected it.

MP Martin Pado (SDKÚ) criticised the fact that Kopčík did not personally appear before the committee on September 19.

“I wanted to ask him [Kopčík] for the truth,” Pado told journalists.

One ruling coalition MP is taking the accusations seriously. Ján Kovarčík (HZDS) told the TA3 news station before the committee session that Kopčík should resign.

“He should ask to be put on leave until the truth comes out or until he is cleared of all suspicion,” Kovarčík said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Erik Tomáš told The Slovak Spectator that there has been no development since the special committee session on September 19.

“We are awaiting the results of the investigation by the prosecution,” Tomáš explained.

Interior Ministry inspectors and investigators from Košice have also looked into the accusations, he said, and decided in February not to pursue any charges against Kopčík.

Palko, who requested that the General Prosecutor investigate Kopčík’s allegedly unauthorised use of the Bulldog, told The Slovak Spectator that he has always considered Kopčík unqualified for his position. “I have the impression that a group of friends from this shooting club in the east made it into high positions,” Palko said.

But Palko refused to comment on the possible sale of weapons, saying that the case should be investigated by government prosecutors.

He also said the accusations against Kopčík differed from those made against former police vice-president Jaroslav Spišiak. “Those accusations were absurd and showed clear sings of a plot by the underworld,” he said. “This situation cannot be compared.”

Since the story broke on September 17, Kopčík has filed a libel suit against Šimonič and the Sme daily.

The case involving the Bulldog, a device that police use to monitor mobile phone numbers, centred on Palko’s accusation that Kopčík broke the law by using the device without authorisation. Kaliňák defended Kopčík at the time and since, telling media that he had asked Kopčík to demonstrate how a Bulldog worked, and that he was present the entire time.

The biggest organised crime case is called the heating oil-sellers fraud. In this case, mineral oil was sold at Slovak filling stations as a petrol, costing the state billions in lost taxes. Police have accused 80 people for the scheme, and 300 more are under investigation.

The police have concluded the scheme was led by the Russian mafia, headed by Semion Mogilevič. Slovak “heating oil-sellers” were tied to similar frauds in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. The oil was supplied from refineries in Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland, and from Petrochema Dubová in Slovakia.

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