Journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, were found shot dead after investigating political corruption linked to the Italian mafia. Kuciak’s work, The Model, the Mafia and the Murderers, was published posthumously by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism (CCIJ), the Investigative Reporting Project Italy, and Aktuality.SK, a team of Slovakian journalists that Kuciak worked with before he was killed.
Kuciak’s report details how the investigation began with looking into why the Slovakian Prime Minister, Robert Fico, hired Mária Trošková as an assistant. Trošková, at the time, was a 27 year old former topless model and Miss Universe competitor with a lack of political experience. The investigation intensified after it came to light that Trošková was a business partner of Antonia Vadala, an Italian residing in Slovakia with ties with the organised crime syndicate, ‘Ndrangheta. The syndicate is a widespread criminal organisation, involved with sophisticated crimes like money laundering, and is the leading cocaine trafficker in Europe. The Italian police had issued a warrant for Vadala’s arrest in 2001. Wiretaps had caught Valada discussing the details of hiding a fugitive drug trafficker and killer in his home. However, the charges were dropped after Valada relocated to Slovakia.
According to a CCIJ reporter who knew Kuciak, his investigation revealed that the Italian mafia had “entered into business with regional politicians.” Moreover, Kuciak was focused on the theft of EU funds for Slovakia by the Italian mafia. Kuciak, and his colleagues in the CCIJ, were about to advance their investigation to confront the key players. However, the investigation was cut short by the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová.
Kuciak and his fiancee’s death sparked tens of thousands to rally in the streets of Slovakia, specifically in the capital, Bratislava. Protests, according to the Slovak media, are the biggest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled communism in Czechoslovakia. Reminiscent of the era, many protesters jangled keys as they did in the 1989 rallies, a sign of peaceful resistance. Slovakians demand a new trustworthy government and a just investigation of Kuciak’s death. While the government began an investigation of the murder, many Slovakians demand for an independent organisation to take control, especially as many members of the Prime Minister’s office have been linked to the Italian mafia.
While the death Kuciak and his fiance were the catalyst for this movement, the Slovakian public has long since bemoaned the corruption and cronyism prevalent in Fico’s administration. An example of such corruption was written in Kusaick’s report, that one of the Italian mafia members had co-owned firms with two Slovaks who worked in Fico’s office.
Answering the calls of the public, many politicians have stepped down. Notably, deputy prime minister, Interior Minister and Fico’s right hand man, Robert Kalinak resigned shortly after the political crisis. Kalinak oversaw the police and could not guarantee an independent investigation. Kalinak claims that his move was to maintain stability within the country. While this appeased the public, it also served to fulfill the demands of Fico’s primary opposition, the Most-Hid, a centrist group representing the ethnic Hungarian minority. While this move has been a step towards a transparent and trustable government, Slovakians continued protests, leading Robert Fico to resign on March 15. In the wake of Fico’s resignation, Slovakians looks forward to a just society that they protested for, similar to the 1989 revolution.
Davies, Christian, and Luke Harding. “Shot Journalist ‘Was Investigating Slovakian Links to Italian Mafia’.”The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Feb. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/28/slovakian-journalist-was-investigating-political-links-to-italian-mafia.
Hanna, Jason. “Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico Resigns after Killing of Journalist.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Mar. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/03/15/europe/slovakia-prime-minister-robert-fico-resigns/index.html.
Reuters, Thomson. “Political Fallout, Protests Threaten Slovakian Government.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 12 Mar. 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/world/slovakia-interior-minister-resigns-robert-kalinak-1.4573032.
Staff and agencies in Bratislava. “Death of Investigative Journalist Sparks Mass Protests in Slovakia.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 9 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/09/death-of-investigative-journalist-sparks-mass-protests-in-slovakia.