Head of Czech branch of Interpol revealed as former StB agent

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The head of the Czech branch of Interpol has been revealed to be a former StB secret police agent. The interior minister has confirmed that Pavol Mihal used a false name when he applied for security screening. Now his days at Interpol look numbered. But is it possible other former agents pulled off a similar trick?

Pavol is the Slovak version of the name Paul. But when Pavol Mihal applied for security clearance before joining the police presidium 15 years ago he apparently gave the Czech name Pavel. It worked: he passed the vetting and got the job.

But now Mr Mihal's subterfuge has come to light. The minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, confirmed the name switch to the daily Lidove noviny. Meanwhile, the police president Vladislav Husak said it was grounds for Mr Mihal's departure from the force's presidium.

The Czech Interpol chief has been in the spotlight for a while. Last week Czech Television actually showed his StB secret police file, opened in March 1984. His code name was Emil and he worked with the internal enemies unit, probably targeting foreign students, Czech TV reported.

Pavol Mihal told the station he knew about the allegations, but insisted that they were not true. He refused to say more and apparently is now on sick leave.

In the wake of the revelation, Interior Minister Langer said he would look into whether it was possible to verify all security clearances issued in the past. If not, he would insist that at least the vetting of senior police officers be re-examined, he told Lidove noviny.

The head of the Interior Ministry's archives Pavel Zacek said it was not the first case of an altered first name being used to beat the system. He said it was impossible to estimate how many such cases remained hidden in the archives, adding that some may be due to human error.

Mr Zacek also said that his office had improved its system of cross-referencing StB files since the time when Mr Mihal received negative "lustration".

According to the Interior Ministry's own figures from the end of last year, there are up to 800 former StB officers in the present day Czech police force.