Like two thunderous concussions, the murders of the Dinič brothers a decade ago, in the summer and fall of 1998, capped a wave of mafia killings under the third Vladimír Mečiar government.
The first to fall was Eduard Dinič, by all accounts a drug-addled, violent thug. On May 10, 1998, shortly before nightfall, he was killed by a bomb planted under a walkway at the Zlaté Piesky (Golden Sands) lake resort on the northeastern outskirts of Bratislava. The three-kilo TNT charge was so powerful that it scattered Dinič’s body parts over a radius of 100 meters, and destroyed several nearby cars. The dead man’s Mercedes coupé was untouched, however, and in it police later found ammunition for a Scorpion machine gun.
Five months later, on October 4, Róbert Dinič was cut down by gunfire with his bodyguard while sitting in his Mercedes S 600 sports car on Pribišová Street in the Dlhé Diely suburb of Bratislava. Police recovered about 30 empty cartridges from the scene, along with a Glock 19 and a ČZ 85 pistol, both 9mm caliber. The killers escaped in a dark colored Audi sedan, which was discovered the next day burned out in the nearby village of Jablonové.
Neither attack was ever solved, but police came to see both as part of the same wave of underworld violence that had begun in February 1997 with the slaying of Slovakia’s boss of bosses, Miroslav Sýkora. In both cases, investigators came to believe that the country’s secret service, the SIS, was behind the killings.
Getting above themselves
Originally from Zvolen in Central Slovakia, the Dinič brothers set up in business in Bratislava in the early 1990s with two principal headquarters – Bielá Street No. 5 in the Old Town, which was the location of the U Eda (“Ed’s Place) pub and restaurant, and the Hotel Junior in the Štrkovec suburb of the city.
Both adept at karate, the Dinič brothers belonged to the Sýkorovci, the dominant Bratislava underworld gang ruled by founder Miroslav Sýkora. The latter attended the Moscow School of International Relations (MGIMO) with other children of prominent East Bloc families, and once back in Slovakia after 1989 used his Russian ties to build a powerful and lucrative mafia operation based on selling low-tax mineral oils as high-tax diesel fuel.
Following Sýkora’s murder, the Dinič brothers briefly and uncertainly took control of the Sýkorovci, but according to police sources who were monitoring them at the time, they had neither Sýkora’s smarts nor his creativity in making money. “They were into cocaine and heroin, especially Edo, and most of what they did was pretty brutal extortion and debt collection,” said a former policeman with the anti-mafia unit. “They were definitely several cuts below Sýkora, but it was a pretty chaotic time in the underworld, so you regularly saw second-rate talents getting elevated into positions above themselves, just by default.”
In June 2007, the Bratislava Regional Court ruled that the Dinič gang had indeed been active in extorting money from entrepreneurs in the Slovak capital, and sentenced two minor members of the group to jail. The only reason the ringleaders were not incarcerated as well, said the presiding judge, was that they were all dead.
“These crimes were committed mostly by people who are deceased,” said Justice Alžbeta Horváthová. “These include mostly the Dinič group and other Russian-speaking individuals. It is beyond doubt that the Dinič gang existed.”
The Dinič gang also included a number of Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, such as Muhamed Šabanovič, a.k.a. Hamo, who was murdered in May 2000 outside the Dolca Vita restaurant in Old Town Bratislava beside the famous statue of Čumil.
Appearing in court in the prisoners’ defense was Bratislava entrepreneur Boris Kollár, who owned a Harley Davidson motorcycle that had previously belonged to Martin Suchár, active in privatizing state property under the Mečiar government. According to the prosecution, Suchár had been targeted by the Dinič gang for extortion for as much as Sk7 million. “The defendants had nothing to do with it,” Kollár said.
Ironically, a year later Kollár’s name came up in connection with a court case again, but this time as the boyfriend of Petra Krištúfková, Róbert Dinič’s former live-in girlfriend and the mother of his third child, Vanessa. Krištúfková faces up to 12 years in jail if convicted of selling a building that belonged to one of Dinič’s former companies, Espada, without telling the other inheritors of his estate.
While the Dinič brothers did not own the Hotel Junior, they had a 30-year lease on the property. It became the headquarters of several of their companies, as well as of the Tropicana Restaurant, which was allegedly frequented by members of the SIS secret service.
“It’s not just that we ourselves had operational information that top SIS people used to hang out there, the Dinič brothers themselves used to boast about it,” said the police source.
Under the leadership of then-SIS director Ivan Lexa, the secret service allegedly used the services of the Sýkorovci to do its dirty work. Senior members of the gang were later murdered, apparently because they had either ceased to be useful or had started to become dangerous by talking too much.
According to the police source, the SIS had Róbert Dinič under constant surveillance until the day before his murder, when the watchers were allegedly called off. Investigators believed that having established his routines – which included waiting in his car until his two daughters from his first marriage, Barbora and Nikoleta, were safely inside their apartment and waving down to him from the window – those monitoring Dinič were in a position to help arrange his murder.
Whatever the connections between the SIS and the Dinič brothers, the gang had a curious ability to winkle advantageous contracts from state institutions. The state insurer Slovenská Poisťovňa, for example, rented the facilities on the south side of the Chopok ski resort in the Low Tatras to the Šport Tatry firm, which had ties to the Dinič gang, for 10 years at an annual rate of Sk1.5 million. The contract was signed in November 1997 with the Ski Jasna firm, where Slovenská Poistovňa had a majority stake.
“It was a ridiculous figure, given that the tax write-offs from these facilities alone were worth Sk12 million a year,” said František Štric, the former director of Ski Jasna, adding that Eduard Dinič had expressed an interest in renting the property back in 1996.
At the same time, Slovenská Poisťovňa awarded a contract for providing security at its premises to the IBeA 3 firm, which was under the control of the SIS.
Ľubica Diničová, Róbert’s wife, claims that after his murder, she was assured by his business partners that she would be financially taken care of. What happened instead, she says, is that most of his most lucrative assets and those of Eduard Dinič were scooped up by other Sýkorovci, while she was unable to agree with Krištúfková, the legal guardian of Dinič’s third child Vanessa, on the ownership of the remainder of his property, including a house in the nearby village of Marianka.
“They promised to look after us, but that was the last thing I heard,” she complained.
Krištúfková, meanwhile, claimed that after Róbert Dinič’s death she was forced to move out of the apartment they had shared, and that she was forced to sign off on the ownership papers to the Sk23 million building on Kollárovo námestie in downtown Bratislava by a subsequent boyfriend, Peter Havaši, a.k.a. Havel, another mafia boss who was killed in 2004.
Fate was no kinder to Dinič’s business partners. Entrepreneur Roman Deák was shot on October 20, 1999, getting into his Mercedes SUV in downtown Bratislava, while Maroš Deák remains missing.
In the months after the murders of the Dinič brothers, the Slovak underworld remained in turmoil, culminating in the slaying in 1999 of nine members of the Tibor Pápay gang in Dunajská Streda, which remains the country’s largest mass killing. The police believe that most of the killings had to do with the changing of the guard in the SIS as the Mečiar government gave way to the first Dzurinda administration, and the underworld accomplices of the outgoing SIS leadership were taken down by the henchmen of the incoming one.
Today, Ľubica Diničová says she bears no ill-will to her deceased ex-husband and his brother. “Ed was fun and the social type, but it was Robo I fell in love with,” she remembers. “The man I divorced was a completely different person. I never would have believed how much money can change a man.”
20. Oct 2008 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson