Former Slovak rail head claims abandoned cash-stuffed rucksack

By bne IntelliNews August 10, 2017

The former head of Slovakia’s state rail infrastructure company has claimed a rucksack containing €300,000 in cash that was found abandonded at a motorway service station, local media reported on August 10.

The case is likely to raise discussion of state corruption once more. The Slovak government has faced large demonstrations in recent months, targeting Interior Minister Robert Kalinak and Prime Minister Robert Fico’s alleged involvement in a real estate scam.

A rucksack stuffed with cash was recently discovered at a petrol station on the Strba motorway in the Presov region. It has now been claimed by Stefan Hlinka, former general director of state-run rail infrastructure owner Zeleznice Slovenskej Republiky (ZSR), reports Pravda.

A report by commercial TV station Markiza late on August 9 said Hlinka will have to explain where he got the money. Now sitting on the supervisory board of ZSR, Hlinka’s tax declaration in 2013 stated he earned around €71,000. He has reportedly claimed that he found the money in a house he inherited from his mother. 

Lawyers suggested to TASR that the process is unlikely to be too exhaustive. The law is toothless and it is not used in practice, the newswire reports.  

However, the National Crime Agency (NAKA) later said it is investigating. "NAKA is already dealing with the case involving suspected money laundering and the violation of duties in administering entrusted property," said director Peter Hrasko. The initial information indicates where the money might come from, he added.

ZSR was quick to try to distance itself from Hlinka, who was appointed to its board by the transport ministry in 2012. "He is not our employee and we do not know anything of his having claimed the money as its owner," the company said.

Whether or not the official can prove legal ownership of the cash, the case will clearly not help ease suspicion that Slovakia is dragging its feet on dealing with corruption. The EU’s fraud office OLAF recently opened a probe into the distribution of EU funds by the education ministry. The issue is likely behind an ongoing crisis within the governing coalition.

 

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