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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Final story of murdered Slovak journalist published

The unfinished article by Jan Kuciak, who was shot dead with his girlfriend last week, alleges links between the Italian mafia and people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico

Light tributes placed during a silent protest in memory of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova, seen in photo, in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. AP
Light tributes placed during a silent protest in memory of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova, seen in photo, in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. AP

The final story of a young investigative journalist shot dead in Slovakia last week has been published, alleging links between the Italian mafia and people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Jan Kuciak’s news site, Aktuality.sk, put the unfinished article online on Wednesday, as did a number of other publications. It describes the activities of members of the Italian 'Ndrangheta criminal group in eastern Slovakia, and the business ties of one of them with a senior assistant to Mr Fico and another official close to him.

The bodies of Mr Kuciak, 27, and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were found on Sunday evening in their house in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava.

Mr Kuciak’s killing was the first of a journalist in Slovakia and the fifth such case concerning a reporter or reporters in the European Union in the past decade, according to Reporters Without Borders. Last October, Maltese anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb.

Mr Kuciak's final report described, among other details, the activities in agriculture, real estate and other sectors of a Slovak-based Italian man believed to belong to the criminal group.

He also detailed the man's business ties to Maria Troskova, a former model who is now the chief state adviser at the government office, and Viliam Jasan, who currently serves as the secretary of Slovakia's security council, a body that deals with key security issues.

In a joint statement, Ms Troskova and Mr Jasan announced on Wednesday they were stepping down until the investigation into the shootings was completed.

They said they were shocked by the slayings and expressed their condolences to the relatives. But they "categorically" rejected any links to the killings.

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After the first details of the story appeared in Aktuality.sk and a newspaper, SME, on Tuesday, Mr Fico dismissed the reports.

"You link innocent people to a double murder without any evidence," Mr Fico said. "Don't do it."

The opposition wasn't impressed and called on national police chief Tibor Gaspar and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak to resign.

Mr Kuciak’s murder angered a nation where media revelations of links between businessmen and politicians have long sparked outrage. A thousand people attended a protest rally organised by the opposition in Bratislava on Wednesday afternoon, and another protest is scheduled in several cities for Friday.

Culture Minister Marek Madaric announced earlier on Wednesday that he was resigning from his government post.

Mr Madaric, a member of Mr Fico's leftist Smer-Social Democracy party, said it was his personal decision.

"As the culture minister, I am not able to cope with the fact that a journalist was killed during my time in office," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska, from a junior coalition partner of Fico's Smer, said it was "absolutely unacceptable" that anyone with ties to organised crime would be working at the government office.

Mr Gaspar, the police chief, said on Wednesday "one of the most likely versions" still was that Mr Kuciak was killed because of his investigative work.

Giving few details, Mr Gaspar said the two were killed with the same weapon, which police still haven't found.

Mr Gaspar said that during the investigation in an unrelated case, police discovered that two people known for drugs-related crimes were planning to meet in Velka Maca on Friday and take guns with them.

Police estimated the killings took place between Thursday and Sunday. He said another suspected person was seen in the town.

Mr Gaspar said police conducted raids, during which they seized ammunition and a weapon. One suspect was detained. He said police still were investigating what the two were planning to do in Velka Maca.

Aktuality.sk said Mr Kuciak co-operated on the story with the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Reporting Project Italy and the International Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The Czech centre said it had been working with Mr Kuciak for more than 18 months.

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