Fugitive billionaire Radovan Krejcir launches counterattack from the Seychelles

The case of the fugitive Czech billionaire Radovan Krejcir has taken a new twist. From his hideout in the Seychelles the man whom the police claim was the ringleader of a dangerous gang has taken a swipe at the ruling Social Democrats, claiming that he loaned the party 60 million crowns back in 2002 in return for special favours.

Conspiracy to murder, money forgery, tax evasion, extortion, abduction - those are just some of the crimes that Radovan Krejcir is wanted for in the Czech Republic. In recent days the Czech police arrested five people who are believed to be his closest accomplices in a dangerous crime-ring which Krejcir allegedly headed or still heads. The head of a special police squad for fighting corruption and economic crime Jiri Novak said the police had plenty of evidence to nail all members of the gang.

"We believe that we got all the big fish here. My team has been working on this case since last November - and the information and documents we have collected look pretty convincing. They convinced us and we hope they'll convince the state attorney."

Safe from his hideout in the Seychelles with his family around him and a Seychelles passport in his pocket, Radovan Krejcir dropped his bombshell-accusing the ruling Social Democratic Party of having accepted a 60 million crown bribe from him back in 2002 - officially a loan, but one that was never meant to be repaid in return for special favours. Speaking to reporters, Krejcir said he intended to write a book that would give the Czech Republic its own Watergate scandal and he hinted that the Czech authorities knew all along that he would never be extradited from the Seychelles.

"I am certain that the present political leadership and the police knew I was beyond their reach the minute they heard I was in the Seychelles. All their media statements about trying to get me extradited were just a smoke screen for the public. I consider myself innocent."

Here in Prague Krejcir's accusations elicited an angry response from finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka who said the fugitive billionaire was telling absurd lies in order to get his revenge on the ruling Social Democrats for breaking up his crime ring and continuing in their efforts to see him brought to justice here in the Czech Republic.

If Radovan Krejcir really wanted to get revenge he timed his story well. It hit the headlines less than 48 hours after a Transparency International report suggested that the Czech Republic was the third most corrupt state in the EU. It is not clear how the opposition will treat the accusations but, even if they don't add fuel to the fire, the fact that the claims have been splashed across today's front pages will not help the Social Democrat's image ahead of next years general elections.