After the release of Jan Kuciak's unfinished bombshell expose on the Italian mafia's infiltration into Slovak politics, thousands of protestors converged on the centre of Bratislava to demand his bravery force a clean out.
A journalist who was investigating an Italian mafia’s influence in his native Slovakia was found murdered on Sunday alongside his fiancee in their home.
Before he and Martina Kusnirova were shot dead, Jan Kuciak had been writing an expose revealing high-level political corruption, and links between Prime Minister Robert Fico’s associates and Calabria’s notorious ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
On Wednesday, the news agency the 27-year-old was working for, aktuality.sk, published his incomplete report, and the allegations of fraud and corruption resulted in two close associates of Fico standing down for the duration of the investigation (they deny any connection to the double homicide), and a minister quitting in protest.
In cooperation with the Czech Investigative Journalism Research Center, Investigative Project of Italy (IRPI) and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Kuciak uncovered explosive details.
“Two people from the circles of a man who came to Slovakia as someone accused in a mafia case in Italy have daily access to the country’s (Slovakia’s) prime minister,” he wrote in the article titled ‘Italian mafia in Slovakia. Its goblins extend into politics’.
“Italians with ties to the mafia have found a second home in Slovakia. They started doing business, receiving subsidies, drawing EU funds, but especially building relationships with influential people in politics – even in the government office of the Slovak Republic.
Italians with ties to the mafia have found a second home in Slovakia.
“They owned or still own dozens of companies. Their property is worth tens of millions of euros.”
Slovakia’s leading SME broadsheet had first published elements of Kuciak’s investigation on Tuesday, and it immediately drew condemnation from Fico, who said the media was “crossing the line” linking him to the murders.
The conservative opposition party OLaNO has organised several marches to honour the young reporter and demand a crackdown on organised crime, the first of which took place on Wednesday.
“We are here to show that Slovakia belongs to us and not the mafia,” Igor Matovic, OLaNO’s leader, told the thousands of Slovaks who braved sub-zero temperatures to converge on the centre of Bratislava.
Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak was murdered over the weekend, apparently for his work investigating corruption. His last report has now been published, “The Model, the Mafia, and the Murderers”https://t.co/GhyY8rEw8A
— Axios World (@AxiosWorld) February 28, 2018
According to SBS News, other anti-corruption demonstrations have been planned across Slovakia, in Prague, London and The Hague on Friday.
Political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told AFP the murder and its possible links to the Slovak political elite “could prompt a political earthquake”.
“A red line has been crossed. This case could shake the electorate of the governing SMER-SD party to its foundations,” he said.
It follows the assassination of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October, who was digging up dirt on high-profile political figures in connection with the Panama Papers leak when an explosive was planted in her car.
Andrew Caruana Galizia suggested last week that more decisive action from the European Union following his mother’s murder, may have prevented Kuciak’s death.
My family warned @EU_Commission that with my mother #DaphneCaruanaGalizia's assassination Malta had set a new standard of permissible behaviour within the EU and that others would soon die if decisive action isn't taken. #JanKuciak could have been saved. https://t.co/nbqrAUMgJJ
— Andrew Caruana Galizia (@acaruanagalizia) February 26, 2018