Former Slovak PM, allies charged with organized crime – POLITICO
BRATISLAVA – Two men who have dominated Slovakian politics for the past 15 years – former three-time prime minister Róbert Fico and former interior minister Róbert Kaliňák – were charged with organized crime offenses on Wednesday.
Kaliňák was arrested by police on Wednesday morning while he was fishing with his wife and sons near Bratislava.
Fico, who still serves as an MP for the opposition party Smer, cannot be arrested without the approval of the legislature. If convicted, they each face up to 12 years in prison.
To According to David Lindtner, a lawyer representing Fico and Kaliňák, the charges against his clients relate to acts they allegedly committed as cabinet members between 2012 and 2018, when Smer anchored successive coalition governments. The two men are said to have used secret tax files to conduct smear campaigns against political rivals, including former President Andrej Kiska and Boris Kollár, the current speaker of Slovakia’s parliament.
The indictment alleges that Fico is the head of a “criminal organization” that included former police chief Tibor Gašpár and Slovakian oligarch Norbert Bodor.
“They made up this story about how I allegedly created a criminal group that allegedly harmed Kiska, Kollár and others [Special Prosecutor Daniel] Lipšic,” Fico said in one written explanation issued on Wednesday, blaming “criminal structures” within the national police force and the special prosecutor’s office. “The list of plaintiffs is proof that political revenge is at stake.”
In 2014, during his second term as Prime Minister of Slovakia, Fico also ran for president but lost to Kiska by almost 20 percentage points. During an unusually bitter campaign, Fico accused Kiska for “making his money from usurying poor people,” “misusing his charity for political ends,” and having “close ties to Scientology.”
In 2017 – the year Fico and Kaliňák allegedly gained unauthorized access to tax documents – the prime minister, then in his third term, began calling President Kiska “a tax cheat”.
But the 2018 killings of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, 28, and his fiancée Martina Kušnirová ended Fico’s premiership and brought down his government. The release of thousands of private messages between Kuciak’s suspected killers and police officers, judges and politicians from the ruling coalition has roused the electorate and swept the 2020 ordinary people’s anti-corruption movement to power.
Under new political direction, Slovakian police have arrested over a dozen former senior officials – many of them from the Organized Crime Unit – as well as former SIS chief Vladimír Pčolinský. The charges include embezzlement, leaking police information to mobsters from a local organized crime group, abuse of office and sabotage.
But the country has not seen elite political figures handcuffed by state Madeleine Albright since the turn of the century following the brutal rule of then-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, an era when Slovakia was described by the US Secretary of State as a “black hole on the map of Europe”. .
“Finally it’s the turn of the people at the top of the pyramid” called Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remišová as Kaliňák was interrogated on Wednesday afternoon.
Several members of the ruling coalition pledged to back a motion to strip Fico of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which would allow for his arrest.
“Our members have already approved it,” said the Freedom and Solidarity party press release Hours after the charges were confirmed by police.
“I expect them to confiscate my passport.” called Fico, whose police interrogation is scheduled for April 26.
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