Leading Party's donor ran secret communists' arms deals

Martina Machová
21. 4. 2010 8:04
Archives reveal details about the role Social Democrats' key sponsor played in illicit arms exports to Third World
Náboje zabavené při operaci mexické vlády proti kartelu Mexického zálivu
Náboje zabavené při operaci mexické vlády proti kartelu Mexického zálivu | Foto: Reuters

Prague - The most generous sponsor of the Social Democrats (ČSSD) was helping the communist regime in the 1980s to run its secret international arms trades.

Aktuálně.cz has learned about this when investigating the circumstances of a large donation for the ČSSD from Austrian businessman of Czech origin Tomáš Melich. Aktuálně.cz came across some previously unknown documents of the communist plainclothes police (StB) whose authenticity was confirmed by the Institute of Totalitarian Studies. These documents portray Melich as the gray eminence of the international arms sales organized by Communist Czechoslovakia.

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In an interview with Aktuálně.cz, Tomáš Melich repeatedly denied any involvement. „Do you know how many people I was in contact with? How could I know who is who," he said after he was confronted with the information from the secret police's documents.

Melich admitted having traded arms, but only sport, hunting and antique types.

Tomáš Melich's foto in the StB document
Tomáš Melich's foto in the StB document | Foto: Martina Machová

However, Aktuálně.cz also spoke to some experts on the history of Communist Czechoslovakia who said that the documents are authentic as they contain many real names, situations and other details.

Generous donor

In the three months at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, Melich donated 13 million CZK (520,000 EUR) to the ČSSD.

The donation was divided into two 6.5 million CZK sums - the first was for the Social Democratic pre-electoral convention, the second was reserved for the electoral campaign of party chairman Jiří Paroubek in the Ústí nad Labem region.

Opinion polls suggest that the ČSSD is way ahead of its competitors in the forthcoming legislative elections to be held at the end of May.

Melich said that he made the donation because Jiří Paroubek is his „childhood friend". However, it appears that their childhood friendship couldn't have lasted very long, because Melich's family moved to Austria when he was a ten-year-old.

Melich followed the example of his father, a businessman with good contacts, and started his own  business career in Austria. According to the documents of the StB, he was eventually hired as a collaborator. 

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200 pages of guns and ammo

The documents found in the archive of the Institute of Totalitarian Studies show that the StB was interested in the arms trades Melich's name was linked to. Eventually, the StB hired him as an agent charged with monitoring the arms deals between Communist Czechoslovakia and foreign countries. 
  
The more than 200-page document is code-named „Mel" (as in Melich) and portrays the businessman as an arms-dealing middleman with good contacts. His clients were allegedly people from West Europe keen on establishing business links with industrial companies in Communist Czechoslovakia (such as Merkuria or Omnipol).

The documents show in detail Melich's involvement in trades with ammunition for pistols and machine guns. Allegedly, between 10 and 25 million bullets changed their owner thanks to Melich. The trade was worth of 2-3 million USD, a staggering sum in the 1980s.

Melich also tried to acquire ammunition for 106 mm cannons, rocket launchers or Soviet anti-tank guided missiles Malyutka.

Development through arms

Arms trades were one of the pillars of the Czechoslovak policy towards the developing world, as most of the buyers of Czechoslovak arms were African and Middle Eastern countries.

The documents also say that Melich cooperated willingly and profited from his new contacts with the secret police in a number of ways. He was allegedly snitching on his business competitors while using his position within the regime to travel freely over the Czechoslovak territory and obtain contracts more easily. 

Martin Slávik from the Totalitarian Studies Institute said that some of the information received by the StB from Melich were found so serious they were directed immediately to the Deputy Interior Minister.

As stated above, Tomáš Melich denied ever having been involved in arms deals, and refuses to reveal anything about his current businesses.

 

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