Slovak border police chief quits over Irish explosives scandal
Slovak border and immigration police chief, Tibor Mako, stepped down over a botched police dog training exercise in which an airline passenger unknowingly smuggled potent explosives to Ireland, an official said Thursday.
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said he accepted Mako's resignation, but resisted growing calls from political opponents for his own resignation.
"I did not contemplate it," Kalinak told reporters at a press conference, broadcast on the TA3 news channel, dpa reported.
The minister, appearing before the public for the first time since the scandal erupted on Tuesday, called the blunder "a silly human mistake" and "an individual failure."
On Saturday, a police dog handler at the Poprad airport in central Slovakia planted 90 grams of the high-grade plastics explosive RDX on a checked-in and screened bag of an unsuspecting Slovak man as part of a routine sniffer dog training, Mako has said.
But the policeman, who now faces disciplinary proceedings, forgot to remove the explosive from the straps of the man's randomly selected bag. The rucksack was loaded on the Danube Wings aircraft, and its owner unwittingly smuggled the explosive all the way to his Dublin home.
To the Irish government's outrage, Slovak police did not inform their Irish counterparts about the blunder until Tuesday.
The passenger - identified as 49-year-old electrician, Stefan Gonda, who has worked in Dublin for several years - was then arrested in a raid on his apartment. Irish police released him after several hours without charge.
The bungled communication with the Irish authorities was the chief cause for Mako's resignation, according to Kalinak.
The embarrassing incident took place nine days after a Nigerian man unsuccessfully attempted to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit.
Kalinak apologized to Ireland and the Slovak passenger on Tuesday, the ministry has said. He also banned sniffer dog training involving planting of explosives on ordinary passengers' luggage, a method which Mako has described as "common."
The interior minister was not able to explain to reporters on Thursday whether the discontinued practice was legal under Slovak law. He also could not say whether the system had been used to train sniffer dogs to check for narcotics in luggage.