Italian mafia reaches to heart of Slovak government, murdered journalist's article claims

 Italian mafia reaches to heart of Slovak government, murdered journalist's article claims
Prime Minister Robert Fico has called on the opposition not to misuse the scandal for political gain.
By bne IntelliNews March 1, 2018

Pressure is mounting on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after Slovak media outlets published a posthumous article of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak alleging mafia infiltration of his government, his junior coalition partner demanded action, and one of his top ministers resigned in disgust over the scandal.

Kuciak (27), who was murdered alongside his fiancée on February 26 in an apparent assassination, was working on the unfinished article until his death. On the evening of February 28 demonstrators in Bratislava held a silent march with candles in his memory.

​Police President Gaspar said on February 28 that a substantial number of people are being interrogated and the police have information which can be relevant to the case. He confirmed that one gun was used in the murder and that there were cartridge casings left next to the bodies, probably as warning signs. Gaspar also said the police are working on the assumption that “it is related to Italian citizens living in Slovakia”. 

In a show of solidarity with the murdered journalist, many Slovak news websites published Kuciak's article at the same time. In it, he alleges that two government officials have connections to Antonino Vadala, an Italian businessman connected to the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia who operates agricultural businesses drawing European Union subsidies in Eastern Slovakia.

On February 28 the two officials resigned, saying they did not want the scandal to harm Fico. Viliam Jasan, head of the powerful Security Council, and Maria Troskova, a top adviser to Fico, are alleged, according to the article (translated by daily SME), to be connected through various companies to Vadala.

“Connecting our names with this hideous act, some politicians or media are absolutely out of line. We categorically deny any ties with this tragedy. But because our names are being misused in a political fight against Prime Minister Robert Fico, we decided until the full investigation of this case to leave our jobs in the Cabinet Office,” they wrote in a joint statement.

At a press briefing on February 27 the Smer leader said Jasan had full security clearance to be secretary of the Security Council. “He was approved by all, even the strictest, security clearances. It is the clearance coordinated with Nato standards. There was no business connection. Should I accuse him of murder now? Don’t do it, please,” Fico said emotionally.

He also appealed to the opposition not to use the murder for political gain.  “Let’s unite, let’s go together,” Fico said at the press briefing.

But journalists, who have long been roundly abused by Fico for what he regards as their political bias, as well as the parliamentary opposition, are now demanding full transparency or even the prime minister's resignation.

“No, Mr Prime Minister, we are not on the same ship. You and your colleagues are suspected of covering up the mafia. And we ask for an independent investigation into the mafia’s activity in Slovakia,” wrote Monika Todova, a reporter from Dennik N, on her Facebook.

Besides Fico, Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak (who is involved in the Basternak affair, an alleged tax fraud) and Police President Tibor Gaspar are also a target for a criticism. The Slovak opposition have issued a statement calling for both Kalinak and Gaspar to step down.

They have also expressed concern that the case will not be investigated properly. Attorney General Jaromir Cinzar issued a statement that it has been decided not to “inform the public and especially politicians” so any leakages will be prevented.

The exposure of the alleged mafia links has rocked the government. The centrist junior coalition party Most-Hid has demanded action. Minister of Justice Lucia Zitnanska (Most-Hid) said that it is absolutely unacceptable for people connected to mafia to stay at the Cabinet Office. Tomas Meravy, an advisor of a party leader of Most-Hid, demanded Fico’s resignation. Most-Hid also called on Fico to get rid of people with ties to the mafia.

Smer's Minister of Culture, Marek Madaric, announced his resignation after the murder. “I can’t handle that during my time in the government the journalist has been killed,” he said during a press briefing. “Verbal attacks on journalist didn’t help much to create correct relations between journalist and politicians,” he added, in a clear reference to Fico's insults against journalists.

Madaric, a leading figure in Smer, could pose a potential challenge to Fico. The culture minister, described as an ideologue of Smer, recently stepped down from his position as vice-chairman of the party after failing in a bid to force the party to undertake internal reform.