The Malta Independent 26 April 2018, Thursday

Czech man fighting extradition claims he was kidnapped and made to sign documents

Thursday, 4 January 2018, 19:17 Last update: about 5 months ago

A Czech national currently fighting extradition claimed in court that he had twice been kidnapped and forced to sign documents implicating him in a tax evasion scheme for which he faces charges in the Czech Republic. One of the kidnappings allegedly took place in Gozo.

Marek Drga is wanted by Czech authorities to face charges relating to over €350,000 in unpaid Value Added Tax (VAT).

Drga was arrested in November and his extradition was approved by the Maltese courts last month. An appeal was subsequently filed claiming that the accusations brought by Czech authorities were in bad faith and that too much time had lapsed since 2011, when the offence allegedly took place.

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Drga testified that he had owned the company Future Constructions between 2009 and 2010 before it was sold off to Thomas Frania, after which Drga stayed on as an employee for six months. The company was then sold again to Renata Sedláčková in February 2011.

According to a European Arrest Warrant, Drga was involved in a tax evasion scheme between March and May 2011, whereby VAT was claimed on electrical equipment purchased VAT-free from Slovakia.

Drga claimed that before he had sold off his company, he was told by Miroslav Zaremba - a construction magnate and sub-contractor - that his company still need to enter into a contract for the purchase of new materials and to act as an intermediary in the purchase for nickel cathodes.

In 2012, Drga claimed, he started receiving anonymous phone calls enquiring about the identity of the company's owner and was pressure to sign a document relating to a change of ownership between Frania and Sedláčková, which he refused to do.

He left the Czech Republic in 2012 after what he described as threats made by a police officer as a result of his refusing to sign the document. It was also at this point that Drga learned of tax evasion charges brought against Zaremba. According to his testimony, Drga was the target of a kidnapping the day before he was due to leave the country.

Following some time spent in Italy, he relocated to Gozo in October 2012, where he worked as a gym instructor.

Second kidnapping in Gozo

In January 2013, Drga said, he was again subject to a kidnapping, this time in Victoria (Gozo). He described how he had been abducted by a group of men who threatened his life and searched his person and mobile. He agreed to sign 50 pages of documents and was told he would be killed if he ever returned to the Czech Republic. When asked by defence lawyer Robert Montalto why he had failed to file a police report following the incident, Drga said that he had only been in Malta for a short while and feared retaliation.

Echoing his client's sentiment, Montalto noted that the Czech prosecution was acting in bad faith as there was no objective evidence linking Drga to the alleged offences. He argued that the Czech authorities were only interested in using his client as a witness against Zaremba. The lawyer called on the court to use its residual special powers and repeal the first court's decision ordering Drga's extradition.

Lawyer George Camilleri, from the Office of the Attorney General, insisted that there was no evidence supporting ]Drga's claims, questioning their legitimacy.

Judgement is set for Friday, 12 January.

 

 


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