Monday, February 26, 2018

Slovakia turns into Sicily

...if not Calabria...

On Sunday, a 27-years-old Slovak investigative journalist Mr Ján Kuciak and his roughly 23-year-old girlfriend Martina Kušnírová (who planned a wedding) were found dead in his home in Veľká Mača, a village in the center of Western Slovakia.

The journalist employed by the web (owned by Ringier Axel Springer) was shot into his chest, she was shot into her head (after she tried to run away and hide). Cartridges were arranged around the dead woman to suggest a Mafia-style assassination – it's a message to others, "don't look into it again". The bodies were found last night after the dead woman's mother complained to the police that she hadn't come home and she's probably in her BF's home. But the murders took place on Thursday night or so.

A police boss has already confirmed that the double murder was related to Kuciak's work – although I am not 100% sure what kind of evidence they may have to be sufficiently certain about this (likely to be true) statement.

In recent two years, Kuciak was writing about apparent frauds involving real estate by Mr Ladislav Bašternák, a rich entrepreneur, and about tax evasion and similar acts by Marián Kočner, a very influential oligarch. I am sure that most people who have thought about the possible culprits have thought about these names.

Aside from various asset transfers linked to Mr Kočner etc., the journalist has also written about strawpersons ("white horses" in Czech and Slovak), Panama Papers, and various suspicious tenders (ultrasound for the Košice hospital). His first article was about the role of a Slovak company in some Ukrainian military funding scandal. But don't focus excessively: he has written about 150 articles in a few years.

The Slovak prime minister Robert Fico has promised €1 million for the information that will lead to the capture of the killer – and his puppet master. I am not sure whether the previous paragraph is enough for that but if no one else wants the reward, I do volunteer.

In the past, Kočner has explicitly threatened Kuciak – but they weren't death threats, they were threats that Kočner would find some dirty materials about Kuciak's relatives somewhere.

What's unpleasant and subtle is that while Bašternák, the guy whose suspicious real estate operations were also covered by the dead journalist, owns a building where the current Slovak prime minister Robert Fico lives right now. Obviously, we may have some worries whether justice will have enough freedom to find itself.

The general prosecutor has promised to launch "the hell" in Slovakia if it's confirmed that the murder is related to the journalist's work. And because the police boss has apparently confirmed it, Slovakia should become "the hell".

Are the obvious suspects investigated and is their availability secured? Won't Slovakia allow them to escape?

There are lots of statements that are almost certainly unrelated to the double assassination that are being talked about and abused in various ways. Slovak prime minister Fico has criticized many Slovak journalists as "anti-Slovak prostitutes". That's similar to the Czech president Zeman who has joked, in front of Putin, that some journalistic hyenas should be shot dead. Calm Putin corrected him by saying that they should only be regulated in some peaceful way. ;-)

Needless to say, Zeman's critics immediately try to link him to the murder by vague comments. That's sort of understandable but I still think it's vastly more important to find and punish the actual killer and the person who hired him – if this is what has happened.

Kočner is using two addresses in the same street of Bratislava in the business database – a fact that has been criticized by the dead journalist, too. On top of that, Kočner has gone through a huge number of scandals. His name is one of the 321 names on the list of "Mafia members" in Slovakia.

Some clues seem to suggest a totally obvious theory. Investigators should be vigorous and fast, I think, but they need to be careful as well. Some additional suspects and suspicious relationships between people have been mentioned by other journalists.

The actual explanations could be very different in details than what we think. For example, Canadian journalist Tom Nicholson – who has been in touch with Kuciak – argues that the Italian mafia – with links to Slovak politicians – may be behind the murder because the EU funds are being stolen in some way through Slovakia and sent backwards to Italy. Yes, Kuciak has written about the Italian organized crime, too (Ndrangheta from Calabria in particular – it's claimed that its revenue is 3.5% of Italy's GDP! Calabria are the tip/toes of the Italian shoe on the map, a triangle symmetrically located across and next to Sicily).

The Calabrian Mafia has had contacts with politicians of many flavors and assets especially in Eastern Slovakia. You can recognize a Slovak person connected to the Italian mafia because he either grows organic food or fights global warming. The first step in "the hell" should involve the preemptive arrest for all organic food growers and climate alarmists in Slovakia, along with the cancellation of free motion for Italian citizens.

Another journalist was recently murdered in Malta. I don't follow whether it's been explained – and whether the culprits might be the same.

My condolences to the relatives and friends of the two victims.

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