South African court rules against extraditing Radovan Krejčíř

Radovan Krejčíř, photo: CTK

One of the country’s most notorious fugitives, billionaire Radovan Krejčíř, is another step closer to escaping Czech justice forever. Almost a year after he was arrested in South Africa, a Johannesburg court on Friday ruled against his extradition to the Czech Republic. The court said that the murder plot and three-billion-crown tax fraud he was accused of are not considered crimes in South Africa.

Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer,  photo: CTK
The news from Johannesburg was a bad blow for the Czech Republic where Krejčíř has already been sentenced in absentia to six and a half years for tax fraud and is charged with a variety of other crimes including conspiracy to murder, counterfeiting, extortion and abduction. Although the prosecutor in the case Deon Barnard is mulling over whether to file an appeal, saying he needs more time to study the court's justification of its decision, the Czech Justice Ministry has not given up on the case. On Friday the ministry’s spokeswoman Zuzana Kuncová read out a brief statement to the press:

“The Czech Republic has cooperated fully with the South African authorities in this extradition request and we are prepared to continue doing so in the future. Friday’s ruling is that of an independent court in a sovereign state and the ministry is not in a position to pass judgment on it.”

Radovan Krejčíř has thumbed his nose at the Czech authorities for years. He first gained notoriety by giving the police the slip while they were raiding his luxury villa in Prague and escaping to the Seychelles where he and his family lived for two years – beyond the reach of Czech justice. The Interior Ministry vowed to catch up with him and when in April of last year he was apprehended at Johannesburg airport in South Africa Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer said this was a message to all criminals that one could not escape justice forever. On Friday a triumphant Radovan Krejčíř parodied the minister’s words from Johannesburg:

Radovan Krejčíř,  photo: CTK
“I have two messages for my countrymen. First good news for all the decent people like myself – namely that justice has been done. And I have bad news for all the corrupt politicians back home, whom I warn that the truth will eventually come out and every one of them will be held accountable.”

Krejčíř’s latest triumph in his cat and mouse game with the Czech authorities is a major embarrassment, especially since the Czech side made some procedural mistakes which slowed down the Johannesburg court case, while Krejčíř never put a foot wrong. He had clearly studied the South African legal system in great detail and has asked for political asylum in the country. A decision on that request may take years and Krejčíř cannot be extradited before it is reached. If the court decides that it has reason to do so, which at present seems more unlikely than ever.