Preston B. 'Konrad' Smith bio

Preston Smith (41) is currently editor-in-chief for international newswire Interfax Central Europe. Working from the newswire's headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, Smith guides a team of crack journalists that cover politics, current affairs, financial and general business news in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia and Romania, as well as closely cooperating with Interfax's Russian bureau on politics and energy market news.


Smith's past work in the region includes award-winning investigative stories exposing money laundering, sex slavery/prostitution, human rights violations and corruption in Central Europe. His work has appeared in a wide range of media, including Australian news magazine The Bulletin; Polish and BBC Radio; Polish television stations TVN, Polsat, TVP1, TVP2, TVP3 and Superstacja; national and international business/news magazines such as Poland Monthly (which he co-founded in 2002), Businessman, Transitions, Wprost, Estate's Gazette, The American Investor, Poland's top newspaper, Rzeczpospolita and a variety of Interfax newswire services, including The Real Estate Report.


In 2006 Smith was named a Walkley Award finalist for a series of articles, co-written for Australia's The Bulletin together with Australian writer Eric Ellis, which detailed how the pair tracked down and interviewed Australia's most notorious white-collar fugitive, Abraham "Abe" Goldberg. Goldberg, who stole an estimated $1.5 bln (Australian dollars) in the late 1990s, had evaded authorities and journalists for more than 10 years before Smith found him, proved his identity and also identified where Goldberg had invested his money in the circus-like Polish real estate market.


In 2004 Smith's work helped prod the U.S. State Department to take a second look at Macedonia's alleged progress fighting the slave trade. Smith's stories, released together with Rzeczpospolita and top-ranked Polish television channel TVN, also prompted a series of police inquiries into the kidnapping of Turkish expatriates in Poland and the murder of a PricewaterhouseCoopers employee in Poland—as well as into circumstances surrounding millions of dollars spirited out of the country's national insurance agency, PZU.


Smith has paid a high price for investigative writing. Over 2004-2006 his apartment was ransacked. He was also physically assaulted, repeatedly threatened (as was his wife), as well as wrongly investigated by police and prosecutors (who later dropped trumped-up accusations against him). In 2006 he was called to serve as a witness in three ongoing investigations by Polish prosecutors, as well as for a Polish Parliamentary Committee. That same year the European Federation of International Journalists condemned a gag order (which was later overturned) against Smith while also awarding him a grant to fight questionable proceedings against him.


Apart from providing the editorial, design and photo guidance for what became Poland's top English-language news magazine, Poland Monthly, Smith has also been called in to edit and design special projects for both Interfax Russia and Poland's Wprost news magazine. He comments on U.S./Polish/Russian relations and news developments for a number of national news television programs on a weekly basis, including TVN25 and Polsat News, making him the only foreign born expatriate in Poland to be called upon for political commentary on such a regular basis.


Smith's interests go beyond journalism, however, with endeavors in art and music that range from a cult comic strip for the Czech Republic's leading English-language daily, The Prague Post, titled "Lost in the Czechlands," which highlighted the bizarre times just after the fall of the Berlin Wall to poster design in three countries to humor columns in the Czech daily Nova Svoboda and Poland Monthly. He has also performed as the lead singer and guitarist of a series of rock/retro bands in Poland, including The Bone Box and the (sometimes struggling) Hoodoohat.


Smith's background also includes years studying various martial arts, including Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, boxing and various forms of Kung Fu. Smith dabbled in Wu Shu sport kung fu for approximately three years before turning to the Tang Lang Praying Mantis for good in 2002. His foray into martial arts includes more than five years of study under Shifu Slawek Mielczarek in Warsaw, Poland, as well as Mielczarek's protégés, Piotrek Jelenewski and Lukasz Sokolowski, all of whom studied under the late Tang Lang master, Yu Tiancheng, hailing from Yantai, China.


A natural polyglot, Smith speaks Polish, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian, English and (quite rusty) French. The Texan-born journalist/writer has also won awards for photography, editorial columns (Oklahoma Associated Press Column Writing) and humor columns in both the United States and Central Europe.