Dupa fuga ilegala a cehului Priplata din Romania, ministrul ceh de justitie a declarat presei de la Praga factul ca autoritatile cehe nu il vor extrada pe Priplata. Contactat de "Prague Post", senatorul Peter Eckstein Kovacs, presedintele Comisiei juridice din Senat, a declarat: "Extradarea este o masura extraordinara. Totusi, autoritatile cehe trebuie sa coopereze cu noi.
Altfel, frauda va fi incurajata".
Prague Post: Czech businessman on lam from Romania
Príplata calls justice a sham; Romanians seek him on murder charge
By Matt Reynolds and Manuela Preoteasa
For The Prague Post
August 10, 2005
The case of Frantisek Príplata, a Czech businessman who fled a conviction for inciting murder in Romania, has turned into an international tug of war. Romanian workers have vowed to drag him back while Czech authorities hold firm to a no-extradition clause in Czech law and Príplata tells tales of torture and hired killers in Romanian prisons.
Príplata, 57, along with four Romanian businessmen and two security guards, was convicted in 2002 in the killing of Virgil Sahleanu, a union leader found stabbed to death outside his home in 2000.
Príplata was free while he appealed his case, and judges allowed him to remain at large even after upholding his conviction in June due to his poor health. He was supposed to report to prison in September. On July 29 he fled to the Czech Republic.
"I said for five years if I don't get justice, I will run," said Príplata, who maintains he was out of Romania when Sahleanu was murdered and blames the charges on a conspiracy. "Romania is run by the law of the jungle," he said. "It's Europe's Congo."
In 2000 Sahleanu had pressed the Romanian courts to nullify a 1998 deal in which Tepro, a steel tube maker in Iasi, eastern Romania, was privatized to Czech steel tube maker Zelezárny Veselí. Príplata brokered the $3 million (72.7 million Kc) sale. The union, angry over mass layoffs that followed, argued that Zelezárny Veselí mismanaged Tepro and reneged on promised investments to keep it going.
Constantin Rotaru, who replaced Sahleanu as union head at Tepro, said he and his workers will "seek 500 visas so we can travel to the Czech Republic and bring Príplata back."
A Romanian judge asked Interpol, the international police agency, to issue a warrant for his arrest, but authorities here say Príplata will not be handed over.
"Czech law forbids Czech citizens from being extradited," said Petr Dimun, spokesman for the Justice Ministry. "The only exceptions are EU countries, and Romania is not in the EU."
Officials at the Romanian Justice Ministry say they will file an extradition request anyway and, if denied, will ask Czech courts to force Príplata to serve his sentence in a Czech prison.
Príplata says that his trial was marred by police misconduct and that he should not be imprisoned anywhere. "The police forced witnesses to name me," he said. "All but one eventually took back his testimony. Locals wanted to implicate a Czech so they could cancel the privatization. I was the only one around."
Although 40,000 of 50,000 people working in heavy industry in Iasi lost their jobs in the 1990s, Tepro was considered a viable company when Zelezárny Veselí took over. But a year later it registered losses of $5 million and debts of $15 million. Workers at Tepro wanted the privatization cancelled, and their calls got louder after 2,400 of Tepro's 4,000 workers were laid off.
In 2000 a court voided the Tepro privatization, citing failure by Zelezárny Veselí to meet its obligations in the privatization.
At the height of calls from the union to cancel the state sell-off, Príplata was acting as an adviser to Topro's management, according to daily Ziarul de Iasi, and was promised stock in the company once the dispute with the union was resolved.
In testimony at Príplata's trial, Catalin Ciubotaru, head of a security company implicated in the killing, said, "Príplata mentioned the necessity of Sahleanu being eliminated." Ciubotaru also testified that managers at Tepro offered him $6,000 to make the union leader "silent."
Príplata, who denies being present when Sahleanu's murder was planned, said his connection to Tepro ended with the privatization in 1998.
Príplata's appeals reached the Romanian Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction in June but postponed his jail term until Sept. 7 due to his poor health. Príplata was free but barred from leaving the country when he left Romania, crossing a field on the Hungarian border by foot.
His escape not only angered workers in Iasi but also set off a debate in Romania over the practice of allowing felons to delay prison terms by obtaining doctor's notes, which critics say can be obtained with bribes. "Nobody keeps an eye on the convicts [once their sentence is postponed]," said Valentin Zaschievici, an investigative journalist.
Príplata, who plans to appeal his conviction to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, says his health complaints are legitimate. He suffers from cataracts, arthritis of the hip and difficulty urinating, he says, which he blames on months spent in a Romanian prison before being released on appeal. He says guards refused to let him use the bathroom for up to six hours at a time.
He says it was common knowledge in jail that he had a $5,000 price on his head and that he survived only because he was kept in solitary confinement.
"I have no doubt I will be killed if I go back to Romanian prison," he said.
On Aug. 4 hundreds of demonstrators in Iasi called on Czech officials to extradite Príplata. Peter Eckstein Kovacs, chairman of the Romanian senate's judiciary committee, said, "The Czechs should cooperate with us. We must resolve this matter. Otherwise, fraud will be encouraged."
Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said Príplata's case had put the Czech Republic in an awkward position — but for now, the state stands firm against extraditing him.
Matt Reynolds, Manuela Preoteasa, "Prague Post". Frantisek Sístek contributed to this report.