Former Slovak PM, allies charged with organized crime – POLITICO

BRATISLAVA — Two males who’ve dominated Slovakia’s politics for the previous 15 years — former three-time Prime Minister Róbert Fico and former Interior Minister Róbert Kaliňák — had been charged Wednesday with organized crime offenses.

Kaliňák was arrested by police on Wednesday morning whereas fishing along with his spouse and sons close to Bratislava.

Fico, nonetheless serving as a member of parliament for the opposition Smer social gathering, can’t be arrested with out the consent of the legislature. If convicted, they might every resist 12 years in jail.

According to David Lindtner, a lawyer representing Fico and Kaliňák, the costs towards his purchasers relate to acts they allegedly dedicated as Cabinet members between 2012 and 2018, when Smer anchored successive ruling coalitions. The two males supposedly used categorised tax recordsdata to wage smear campaigns towards political rivals, together with former President Andrej Kiska and Boris Kollár, at present Slovakia’s speaker of parliament.

The indictment alleges that Fico was the top of a “criminal organization” that additionally included former police chief Tibor Gašpár, in addition to Slovak oligarch Norbert Bodor.

“They invented this story about how I supposedly created a criminal group that allegedly harmed Kiska, Kollár and [Special Prosecutor Daniel] Lipšic,” Fico mentioned in a written assertion issued Wednesday, blaming “criminal structures” within the nationwide police pressure and the Special Prosecutor’s Office. “The list of plaintiffs is proof that this is about political revenge.”

In 2014, whereas serving his second time period as Slovak prime minister, Fico additionally ran for the presidency, however misplaced to Kiska by nearly 20 share factors. During an unusually bitter marketing campaign, Fico accused Kiska of “earning his money from usury on poor people,” of “misusing his charity for political ends,” and of getting “close ties to Scientology.”

In 2017 — the 12 months that Fico and Kaliňák allegedly gained unauthorized entry to tax paperwork — the prime minister, then in his third time period, started calling President Kiska “a tax cheat.”

But the 2018 murders of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, 28, and his fiancée Martina Kušnirová ended Fico’s premiership and introduced down his authorities. The launch of hundreds of personal messages between Kuciak’s alleged killers and police, judges and ruling-coalition politicians galvanized the citizens and swept the anti-corruption Ordinary People motion to energy in 2020.

Under new political stewardship, Slovakia’s police have arrested over a dozen former high-ranking officers — many with the organized crime unit — together with the previous head of the SIS secret service, Vladimír Pčolinský. Charges embrace embezzlement, leaking police info to gangsters with a neighborhood organized crime group, abuse of workplace and sabotage.

But the nation has not seen elite political figures in handcuffs for the reason that flip of the century, following the thuggish rule of then-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, an period when Slovakia was described as a “black hole on the map of Europe” by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“Finally it’s the turn of people at the top of the pyramid,” mentioned Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remišová as Kaliňák was interrogated Wednesday afternoon.

Several members of the ruling coalition vowed to help a movement to strip Fico of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which might permit his arrest.

“Our members have already approved it,” mentioned the Freedom and Solidarity social gathering in a press launch hours after the costs had been confirmed by police.

“I expect they’ll confiscate my passport,” mentioned Fico, whose police interview is slated for April 26.

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