UNTIL recently Karol Mello had been Slovakia’s most wanted person, an alleged mob boss accused of a double murder in Most pri Bratislave in 2004. He was arrested at the end of 2010 in Krakow, Poland, but now has been released from custody in Slovakia for the second time.
Mello was first released on May 9 based on a court error but he was immediately re-arrested by a special police unit and charged with a different crime. The Bratislava Regional Court then released Mello on May 19 for the second time in a month.
“The [Regional] Court decided that the legal conditions defined under the Criminal Code for the District Court to repeatedly deprive the accused of his personal freedom were not met, as he had already been released with respect to the same case once,” the Regional Court’s spokesperson, Pavol Adamčiak, told the TASR newswire.
The head of the Special Department in the General Prosecutor’s office, Peter Šufliarsky, told a press conference on May 24 that mistakes had been made by the district court as well as by a prosecutor in his office. He explained that after Mello was escorted from Poland on April 29, 2011, his custody was decided upon by a single judge from the Bratislava I District Court while under the law that decision was supposed to be made by a senate of three judges from the court.
“This was the moment when the unlawfulness of the whole proceeding started,” Šufliarsky said, as quoted by TASR, adding that the prosecutor dealing with the case also then made a mistake by not pointing out that fact.
Šufliarsky did not mention the name of the prosecutor who made the error in judgment but media reported it was his deputy, Eva Mišíková, who was the governing coalition’s initial candidate for general prosecutor last year.
On May 24 the Cas.sk news portal reported that a police investigator from the Office for the Fight against Organised Crime had initiated a motion to issue another arrest warrant for Mello but that this can only be done after the prosecution accepts the motion and files such a proposal with the court. The court then decides whether to issue an arrest warrant.
After his release from custody Mello said he was innocent of the charges against him and that he was not intending to flee the country.
Detained in Poland
Mello was detained on October 27, 2010 in Krakow, Poland in an apartment where he was living with his partner, a well-known Slovak actress, and their son.
Mello is reportedly one of the most dangerous members of the Slovak underworld. He is accused of ordering the murder of a businessman from Most pri Bratislave in 2004.
The gunman, however, shot and killed the businessman’s partner and his small son while firing at the businessman’s car. Following the shooting, Mello fled abroad.
In 2006 an international warrant for Mello’s arrest was issued but he was never detained, even after the Slovak weekly Plus 7 Dní published pictures of Mello, his partner and their child in Alicante, Spain, in August 2007.
At that time, media speculated that Mello had protected testimony status in criminal proceedings against other mob bosses, the Sme daily reported.
Slap in the face, Lipšic says
The court decisions involving Mello represent a slap in the face to justice and a mockery of victims, Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic, a member of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), said at a press briefing on May 20 following Mello’s release, calling the decision absurd.
“It is absurd of the Regional Court to render the custody null and void first, and subsequently rule that the second custody represents a repeated custody, when the first one was actually nullified,” he said. “How long will we tolerate such unlawful rulings by the courts?”
Lipšic said that Mello’s case was a textbook example of one in which the accused must remain in custody, as he is charged with an extremely brutal crime and had previously been on the run for several years.
Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská requested the Mello case files from the court to evaluate whether there are reasons to file a special appeal.
“At this point our priority is to see whether there are justified reasons to file a special appeal,” her spokesperson Peter Bubla told the TASR newswire. “After that we will decide in a standard proceeding the issue of the potential responsibility of the judges who were dealing with the case.”
Mello’s attorney, Peter Schmidl, told the SITA newswire that the Regional Court had ruled based on a motion made by the defence.
30. May 2011 at 0:00 | By Michaela Terenzani with press reports