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Cablegate: One Down, One Dirty: Corruption and Incompetence Taint

VZCZCXRO8193
RR RUEHKW RUEHMA RUEHSK
DE RUEHSL #0072 0501454
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191454Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BRATISLAVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0433
INFO RUEHUP/AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST 0015
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0010
RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV 0005
RUCNCRI/VIENNA CRIME COLLECTIVE
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 0015
RHMFIUU/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHSL/AMEMBASSY BRATISLAVA 0499

UNCLAS BRATISLAVA 000072

SIPDIS

VIENNA FOR DHS/ICE JAMES PLITT
DHS FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND VISA WAIVER PROGRAM MARC FREY AND GIANFRANCO CORTI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS PGOV LO PREL UP PINR
SUBJECT: ONE DOWN, ONE DIRTY: CORRUPTION AND INCOMPETENCE TAINT
SLOVAK BORDER POLICE

REF: (A) 09 Bratislava 51; (B) 09 Bratislava 428

1. (U) Summary. In the past six weeks, the chief of Slovakia's
Border and Alien Police (BAP) and its senior officer at the
eastern (Ukrainian) border have both fallen from grace, the
former taking responsibility for a fiasco involving explosives
secreted in luggage by the bomb squad, the latter for allegedly
taking bribes. The temporarily headless BAP bureau is of great
importance to Slovakia's commitments under the Visa Waiver
Program (VWP) and is a close collaborator on other U.S.
priorities. End Summary.

2. (U) In early January, Slovakia scored its 15 minutes of
international fame as a result of a botched bomb-detection
exercise. An officer working with sniffer dogs at Poprad
Airport hid live explosives in the luggage of a Slovak who
worked in Ireland. The officer failed to retrieve it after the
exercise, and through a series of errors, the luggage made it to
Dublin, where three days later Irish police were able to track
it down. In the ensuing uproar, Interior Minister Kalinak
survived calls for his head but BAP chief Col. Tibor Mako took
the fall. He has been re-assigned within the Ministry of
Interior, which controls the BAP, but his career seems to be
effectively at an end.

3. (U) Mako was an important Embassy and DHS contact in the
lead-up to Slovakia's entry into the VWP in November 2008. In
September 2009, he hosted Embassy Consul, Poloff, and DHS/ICE
attachi on a tour of Slovakia's border with Ukraine (ref B).
The tour started at the BAP headquarters in Sobrance , commanded
by Lt. Col. Miroslav Uchnar. Uchnar accompanied Mako on the
tour of border and to the ensuing official lunch. Having heard
rumors and specific information (ref A) more than a year ago
that there was an investigation into malfeasance by an
immigration official in the East, we asked Uchnar directly about
internal controls during the day's conversations. He told us
that there had been no recent arrests or investigations in
recent years, and showed little interest in the subject.

4. (U) Last week, Uchnar, who as head of the BAP in Sobrance
was in charge of 880 policemen and the country's most sensitive
border, was accused of accepting a bribe and abusing his public
office. He is suspected of taking a bribe of EUR 2,600 as a
reward for securing a job for a 32-year old woman in his own
Border and Alien Police Bureau, according to news reports. It
is noteworthy that the suspect BAP official we were told about
in ref A was not Uchnar - we have heard nothing new on that
case.

5. (U) Comment. It would be surprising if an officer of
Uchnar's length of service just decided to begin a life of
corruption now, given the well-known and lucrative smuggling of
cigarettes and other contraband over the border from Ukraine.
One newspaper reported that on the Ukrainian side, officers pay
EUR 10,000 to secure a job on the border, which they swiftly
make back. There have been low-level officers fired for
corruption in the past, but no one near Uchnar's stature has
been arrested in recent years. We will be anxious to learn what
emerges in the coming investigation by the police into one of
their own. If the allegations are limited to smuggling of
goods, it will be a problem for Slovakia and the EU. If any of
the rumors of corruption and abuse of the visa and residency
permit system are substantiated, we will want to see some
progress on cleaning house in light of Slovakia's scheduled VWP
re-certification later this year. End Comment.

EDDINS

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