Slovak investigators are looking into possible links between the assassination of journalist Jan Kuciak and of his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova and the involvement of Italian organised crime groups operating in Slovakia.
Before his death, Kuciak had been working with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and his outlet, Aktuality.sk, on an in-depth investigation about the Italian ‘Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful and feared criminal groups, and their infiltration into Slovakia, a country where they are suspected of colluding with some politicians..
In an interview, Tuesday with the Sme daily newspaper, Slovak-based Canadian journalist Tom Nicholson said Kuciak told him before his death that he was working on a story about possible Italian mafia involvement in a fraud case linked to EU subsidies in eastern Slovakia.
The government is offering 1 million euros to anyone who helps authorities find the people responsible. Slovak President Tibor Gaspar said the EU’s police agency Europol has offered expert assistance on issues like the analysis of mobile phones.
He said over 20 people have been interrogated and camera footage was being examined.
Gaspar spoke at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Robert Fico, who repeated his call for the public to help with information while standing next to a table with a 1 million euros cash reward sitting on top.
Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said a representative of news website aktuality.sk would be invited to join the investigative team to provide maximum transparency.
Kuciak had written articles about tax fraud and businessmen with political connections, including to the ruling Smer party.
To add to the feeling of suspicion, a major fire on Tuesday burned down the main tax office in Kosice, in eastern Slovakia, where Kuciak had been looking into suspicions of tax and EU-funding fraud involving local businessmen and the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta.
Kuciak is the first journalist to be killed in Slovakia since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993.