SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Pandúr

IN THE Hungarian Kingdom, a pandúr was an armed serf who carried out the wishes of his master. Today, the word is used to describe not only an armoured military transporter, but also a corruption scandal connected with the sale of the vehicle to the Czech defence department.

IN THE Hungarian Kingdom, a pandúr was an armed serf who carried out the wishes of his master. Today, the word is used to describe not only an armoured military transporter, but also a corruption scandal connected with the sale of the vehicle to the Czech defence department.

The case brings back memories of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, not just because it involves Austrian, Czech, and Slovak officials, but also in the way the deals were made during closed door meetings between adjutants, with little regard for the interests of the plebs. Yes, you can still smell old Vienna or Budapest in the halls of power of today’s central European capitals, a tradition foreigners often struggle with.

Slovakia’s role in the scandal is ambiguous – the government was in no way directly involved in the sale. Yet, according to witness testimonies gathered by Austrian authorities, arms dealer Miroslav Výboh seemed to play a key role in arranging meetings and asking for bribes. And he did not forget to mention his close relationship with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on numerous occasions. The pair even attended a meeting with Czech premier Mirek Topolánek and his sidekick Marek Dalík, where they discussed the sale.

Thus far, Fico has taken great caution not to be personally connected to any wrongdoing. Even though his Smer party has had tons of corruption scandals, there were never any links leading to its chairman. Even now, there is no indication, not to mention proof, that he was involved in anything illegal – the government office does have a point when they say Slovak officials had nothing to do with the transaction.

But Výboh is a close friend and confidant of Fico, which they both admit. So reading testimonies about how he asked for money and repeatedly mentioned his ties with Fico are not only embarrassing, but also cast doubt on the numerous other state contracts Výboh and his firms have had in Slovakia. Not to mention the fact that you can often judge a man by the choice of his pandúr.

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