Czech fugitive Tomáš Pitr extradited from Switzerland

Pitr was arrested in July 2010 after years on the run; the alleged mobster said he feared for his life if not granted asylum 

Controversial multi-billionaire Czech businessman Tomáš Pitr, an alleged underworld figure who several years ago fled to Switzerland to avoid serving a sentence for fraud and tax evasion, is being extradited to his homeland.

The Czech Ministry of Justice on Tuesday received official notice from its Swiss counterpart that Pitr had withdrawn his application for asylum, thereby allowing for his return, the news server Novinky.cz reported.

“For security reasons, and at the request of the Swiss side, no details will be made public,” ministry spokesman Jiří Hovorka said.

Pitr, who through various delay tactics was still a free man two years after being sentenced to five years in prison for tax evasion, fled the Czech Republic in 2007. He remained on the run until being arrested in July 2010 in the ski resort town of St Moritz by the Swiss police, who were reportedly acting on a tip from their Czech counterparts.

The fugitive businessman — who was an illegal moneychanger before the fall of communism and made his first million selling duty-free rum in 1990 — had said he feared for his life should he be forced to return to the Czech Republic. He had also claimed the judiciary was biased against him. ‘[He] became convinced that his right to a fair trial had started to be respected.’

“Mr Pitr has continuously assessed the state of proceedings of his case since last summer... and he became convinced that his right to a fair trial had started to be respected,” his lawyer, Jan Křivánek, told the news server iDnes.cz in mid-March. He stressed that it was Pitr’s voluntary decision.

In the mid-1990s Pitr had gained control of Setuza, the country’s biggest food and chemicals producer. He was a known associate of reputed Czech underworld boss František Mrázek, who was killed by a sniper on a Prague street in January 2006. The case against Pitr is complicated as he was given a cumulative sentence of six years in prison in absentia in April 2010 for fraudulent deals in shares of the Setuza and Milo Surovarny companies.

Swiss detectives last year also revealed that the controversial Appian Group transferred a staggering Kč 150 million in “consultation fees” following its 2002 purchase of the Czech engineering giant Škoda Plzeň to a firm registered in the Virgin Islands — which in turn sent it on to firms connected to Pitr and Mrázek, as well as to a Slovak consulting and financial services firm that was advising the government on the Škoda Plzeň sale.