New Slovak government plans to dismantle Special Prosecutor’s Office

New Slovak government plans to dismantle Special Prosecutor’s Office
From left to far right: Peter Pellegrini (Hlas), Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer) and Andrej Danko (SNS). / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera December 4, 2023

Andrej Danko, leader of Slovakia's junior coalition party, the far-right SNS, confirmed that the new cabinet wants to dismantle the Special Prosecutor’s Office overseeing some of the country’s highest-profile criminal investigations.

During a  televised debate at the weekend on the commercial television station Markiza, Danko responded “yes” in a short response session to the question if there was an agreement to dismantle the Special Prosecutor's Office inside the ruling coalition, which is led by the populist Smer party of Robert Fico.

Danko said the prosecutors of ongoing investigations would not change, but he was the first coalition party leader to say that the Special Prosecutor's Office would be dismantled. 

"The most likely [scenario] is that Special Prosecution will be moved to the General" Prosecution, Danko added.  

Danko also said that "everything special is twisted", hinting that dismantling the Special Criminal Court is also on the cabinet's agenda.

Danko’s response was preceded by days of media speculations that Fico’s cabinet is mulling such changes in an effort to safeguard Smer politicians under investigation and stop the investigations from spreading further into Smer's ranks.

Fico's cabinet ministers have argued that Special Prosecution has been under political influence. During the "Otvorene" talk at public broadcaster RTVS, Minister of Defence and Fico's close party collaborator, Robert Kalinak, said Special Prosecution was "brutally abused". 

Fico was forced to resign in March 2018 after massive demonstrations sparked by the assassination of journalist Jan Kuciak, who was investigating corruption. Following a general election in February 2020, a series of centre-right governments encouraged police and prosecutors to investigate corruption scandals under Fico's government.

On Friday, December 1, liberal daily SME reported on the existence unofficial 32-page proposal of Smer on the mulled changes. Cabinet members were supposed to discuss the judicial changes with the EU Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders.   

Special Prosecution was set up to oversee the most serious economic and violent criminal offences.

Currently, it oversees some of the most high-profile cases referred to by the media with their police investigation code names, including Mytink (Meeting), Ocistec (Purgatory) and Jidas (Judas), linked to Smer officials. 

In response to the plans to dismantle the Special Prosecution, opposition leader and chairman of Progressive Slovakia, Michal Simecka, said that "weakening or dismantling of this institution is in today's context a frontal attack on the rule of state in Slovakia". 

Legislators from another opposition party, neoliberal SaS, accused the cabinet of efforts to meddle with live investigations. 

In a separate development, Fico said former police president and Smer legislator Tibor Gaspar would be a “perfect boss of the Slovak information service” (SIS).

Gaspar is facing corruption charges in connection to cases involving the construction companies Doprastav, Vahostav and Technopol.

Additionally, Gaspar also faces charges in the Ocistec (Purgatory) case aimed at an alleged organised group led by Gaspar and businessman Norbert Bodor, which, according to investigators, effectively controlled the police during Gaspar’s reign.

A wave of investigations was triggered by the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancé, who was reporting on the Smer links to local oligarchs and Italian mafia. His murder also sparked a wave of mass protests, forcing Fico out of power.

On Saturday's debate at public RTVS, Fico said that Gaspar is “falsely accused,” and he praised his work as a legislator, though he also said that Gaspar’s instalment as SIS boss is a “far stretch now”.   

SIS has been without a regular chief since August when the then chief Michal Alac was removed following a round of police raids in which Alac was caught up, and he now faces charges (which he denies) of establishing a criminal ring and abuse of power.