Investigations into Journalist’s murder reveal links between businessman accused of ordering murder and officials from state bodies

epa07501243 (FILE) - A man places a candle next to a portrait of murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiance Martina Kusnirova during a vigil outside the Slovak Embassy in Berlin Germany, 02 March 2018 (reissued 12 April 2019). Media reports state on 12 April 2019 that an ex-soldier has confessed the double murder of Kuciak and his fiancee, both aged 27, who were found shot dead last year at their home in Velka Maca, near Bratislava. Suspect Miroslav Marcek, along with three others, have been taken into custody and charged over the killings. A Slovak businessman, Marian Kocner, has been charged by prosecutors with ordering the murder, media added. EPA-EFE/FELIPE TRUEBA

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A year and a half since the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée,  Martina Kušnírová, prosecutors said that the investigation has uncovered a ring of other crimes, including four murders and planned high-level assassinations.

EurActiv reports that according to the prosecutors, several officials from various state bodies had communicated with businessman Marian Kočner, who was charged with ordering the killing of Kuciak, who was murdered along with Kušnírová in 2018.

The content of their communication went beyond the normal line of duty, according to the prosecutors, who said almost twenty other crimes were uncovered during the investigation.

Last week, the police charged four suspects with carrying out four murders and with ordering at least three other murders, whose targets were former deputy general prosecutor Peter Šufliarsky, special prosecutor Maroš Žilinka and former interior minister Daniel Lipšic, who later worked as a Kuciak’s family lawyer.

According to one of the two prosecutors, the killings did not take place thanks to sheer happenstance but he did not go into further detail. The four suspects were arrested last September and are likely to go on trial in November. The prosecutor complained that the investigation was being obstructed and was made more difficult by persistent leaks.

“During the investigation, the activities of law enforcement bodies have been and are being constantly questioned by politicians and media. These attacks are unwarranted, and the question is to whom and for what purpose they serve. Media have become part of the manipulating game,” the prosecutor said.

The investigative team was significantly reduced following numerous leaks from the investigation. “People who shouldn’t have known about the investigation had been informed and warned,” the prosecutor added.

France 24 reports how Journalist Jan Kuciak, 27, had been investigating Kocner’s business activities when he and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova were gunned down at home in February 2018.

Mass anti-government protests forced Fico to resign, but he remains the leader of the governing populist-left Smer-SD party and is a close ally of current Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini.

Prosecutors have charged five people over the double murder, including property developer Kocner and his one-time interpreter, named as Alena Zs.

Kocner maintains his innocence, according to his lawyer Marek Para, who did not refute the authenticity of the leaked text messages to reporters but said their contents make clear “that they don’t concern the act (of murder) at all.”

In his leaked chats with Alena Zs., which the police have examined, Kocner refers to Fico as “Squarehead”, a widely used nickname for the politician.

“I’m worried Squarehead won’t weather this,” Kocner allegedly wrote amid the public outcry after the murders came to light.

Weeks later, after Fico had already stepped down, Kocner informed Alena Zs. that he was “going to pay the Squarehead a surprise visit and kick him in the arse.”

Last week, Fico blamed the opposition and the media for linking his party to Kocner, telling reporters that their coverage against the party was “turning into a kind of jihad”.

Bratislava-based analyst Pavol Babos told AFP that “it cannot be ruled out that Kocner boasted about things that were not true in an attempt to make an impression.”

He said it was too early to tell whether the messages would influence voters in general elections set for March 2020.

But he added that “both Robert Fico and (ousted interior minister) Robert Kalinak are definitely losing coalition potential.

“I cannot imagine political parties entering into a coalition with Smer-SD.”

Via EuroActiv / France 24

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