Football boss, associates in custody after dramatic arrests

The arrest of Jaroslav Starka, photo: MFDnes 15.11.06

There were dramatic scenes on Tuesday, as the police made a number of high-profile arrests. A heavily armed unit swooped on football club owner Jaroslav Starka on a motorway in central Bohemia. Meanwhile, on Prague's Vodickova St, traffic was delayed as masked and armed officers picked up an associate of Mr Starka's. They and five others are suspected of the kidnap and subsequent death of the father of one of the country's most notorious fugitives.

Marila Pribram football boss Jaroslav Starka and other business partners arrested in the Czech Republic on Tuesday - have long been suspected of connections to organised crime. According to reports, in recent months the team owner suspected he might come under arrest and now it is reality: police suspect that Mr Starka and associates were behind the disappearance and death of Lambert Krejcir. He was the father of controversial millionaire and suspected crime figure Radovan Krejcir, whose kidnap in 2002 was in order to apparently blackmail the son to pay up on past debts from business activities. Some believe the elder Krejcir suffered a fatal heart attack during the abduction, when he was bundled into the trunk of the kidnappers' vehicle.

Jaroslav Starka,  photo: CTK
Krejcir's son, Radovan, in a much-publicised case - escaped the Czech Republic later to avoid arrest for his own alleged crime involvement and he now resides in the Seychelles. He replied "no comment" to the developments on Tuesday. In the past he expressed hope that the perpetrators in his father's murder would be found and from the start Marila Pribram's boss Jaroslav Starka was reportedly suspected. Not surprisingly, the boss of the first division team denied any involvement, even stating that he and Radovan were on good terms. Still, Mr Starka is no stranger to controversy: his name has been mentioned alongside Tomas Pitr's and Frantisek Mrazek's. Mr Pitr is now sentenced to prison while Mr Mrazek was murdered in a professional "hit" in January.

In the past Mr Starka was also questioned in the kidnapping case of an Italian banker and then, last year he escaped with his life after being shot twice by a would-be assassin. Regarding football, he is considered to be one of most influential figures in the Czech league, voted to the league's executive body last year. If Mr Starka is remanded in custody for a longer period - he and the others have been charged with robbery as well as kidnapping - it is likely that will have a negative impact on his team's fortunes.