Fugitive Radovan Krejcir disappears yet again

Radovan Krejcir, photo: CTK

One of the country's most notorious fugitives, billionaire Radovan Krejcir, has won another round in his cat-and-mouse game with the Czech authorities. On Monday evening he was unexpectedly released from a South African prison allegedly because the Czechs had failed to file an extradition request on time. Nobody knows where Krejcir is right now and the authorities in Prague and Johannesburg are arguing over whose fault it is.

Radovan Krejcir, wanted for extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder, has led the Czech authorities a merry dance. In 2005 he managed to give the police the slip while they were raiding his villa - an embarrassing incident that cost the police president his job. For close to two years Krejcir thumbed his nose at the police from the Seychelles where he had acquired citizenship and made a new life for his family. He was rich, carefree - and untouchable. Officials in Prague vowed they would bide their time until he put a foot wrong. Krejcir did, leaving the Seychelles in April of this year and getting arrested on an Interpol warrant as soon as he set foot on South African soil. In Prague, the present and former interior ministers jostled to take the credit. Six weeks ago interior minister Ivan Langer told the press that Krejcir was "half-way home". Now he may not even be in South Africa, and both the interior and justice ministers are in hot water again. The South African judge who released Krejcir said he could not be detained beyond the 40-day limit without an extradition request from Prague. Under fire Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil insists that his ministry is not to blame:

Jiri Pospisil, photo: CTK
"I have a letter stating that the extradition papers were to be delivered by June 19th and I would put my head on the block that they would have been there by the given date. My employees have followed standard procedures."

The minister lays the blame at the door of the South African authorities, saying that none of this would have happened had the court accepted the extradition documents which the Czech side tried to hand over some time ago. They were told the extradition papers were incomplete and would have to be re-worked. The minister's arguments have not convinced anyone in Johannesburg and not many people in Prague.

Frantisek Bublan and Jiri Paroubek, photo: CTK
The Czech opposition says this is a lame excuse and has called for the dismissal of both the interior and justice ministers. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek went so far as to suggest the delay may have been intentional:

"This could lead me to any conclusion. For instance I may conclude that a man who was a strong advocate of the Civic Democratic Party and who damaged the Social Democrats with his lies in the last elections has been well rewarded."

Meanwhile, the Czech media are once again speculating where the elusive Radovan Krejcir could be hiding and what his next step is likely to be. One thing is certain -wherever he is, he must be having a good laugh.