KAROL Mello, Slovakia’s most wanted fugitive, no longer stands accused of violating Belize’s immigration laws: this is only the most recent, somewhat bizarre, turn in the saga to have him extradited to his home country on multiple charges of murder. The affair has put Belize, its legal system, and the Caribbean island of San Pedro, where Mello has been living for several months, firmly on Slovak radar screens.
Mello was first arrested on San Pedro on July 11 this year, but on August 17 a Belizean court released him on bail of $10,000, after a judge agreed with the opinion of his lawyers that his continued custody was illegal, local news website 7newsbelize.com reported. Nevertheless, Mello must still report to the Belizean authorities on a regular basis.
On July 20 Slovakia had asked Belize to keep Mello in pre-trial custody.
“The goal of pre-trial custody is to secure the presence of Karol M. on the territory of Belize until the original copies of the extradition materials arrive,” spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice Jana Zlatohlávková told the SITA newswire.
However, Belize’s Supreme Court on August 10 rejected Slovakia’s initial request to extradite the 42-year-old to Slovakia, the office of his Belizean lawyer, Godfrey Smith, told the TASR newswire the same day.
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák responded that Slovakia would once again request Mello’s extradition.
Zlatohlávková said on August 21 that extradition documents had been re-sent via Slovak diplomatic channels in mid August. The Ministry of Justice said it was requesting the extradition of Mello on the basis of the internationally acknowledged principle of reciprocity.
Freed from charges in Belize
After his arrest Mello was accused by Belizean authorities of perjury and forging a passport. But a local court later cleared him of violating the country’s immigration laws, finding that he had no way to know that his passport had been withdrawn in Slovakia, his Slovak lawyer Peter Schmidl told TASR. This was despite Mello having been on the run for several years, being placed on an Interpol wanted list, and despite him having been detained by Polish police in 2010 and subsequently held in Slovakia until 2011, when a court ordered him to be released on a legal technicality.
“It was shown that he could not know that someone had issued a decision on the withdrawal of his passport,” Schmidl said, as quoted by TASR, adding that the decision had not been delivered to Mello or anyone authorised to receive such a decision and thus when Mello used an invalid passport in communication with the Belizean authorities he did not do so intentionally.
Mello also failed to state in his application for permanent residence in Belize that he is facing serious criminal charges in Slovakia.
However, Schmidl argued that Mello’s lack of legal education or sound knowledge of English meant he could not have known whether the application was asking about potential charges or previous convictions.
The Slovak Interior Ministry said on August 21 that the court’s decision to clear Mello of the charges is bad news for Slovakia, but that it respects the decision of the Belizean authorities.
“Despite this situation we will continue in our efforts to get Karol M. to face Slovak prosecution bodies and we will use all the available diplomatic and legal means,” said Interior Ministry spokesperson Ingrid Stanová.
Belizean Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse announced in early August that the Government of Belize was ready to extradite Mello even though his country has no related agreements with Slovakia, TASR reported on August 3.
“I have signed the [extradition] order ... after proper consultation with the director of immigration, the police and [all those] concerned, and we are hoping to enforce the order,” the minister said, according to 7newsbelize.com.
“We do not have any extradition agreement with that country, but ... if he were a Belizean accused of doing something here and fled to another country, we would want him back here to stand trial,” explained Hulse.
Mello has spent several years evading arrest since being accused of ordering a botched gangland hit which left a woman and young boy dead in Most pri Bratislave in 2004. After his release from detention in Slovakia in 2011 he immediately went on the run again.
23. Aug 2012 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová