Investigative journalist Ján Kuciak (27) and his fiancé were shot dead at his family home. Kuciak worked for the aktuality.sk news website, mostly on various cases linked to Marián Kočner and other businessmen with links to Smer. Last fall, Kočner threatened to “look for dirt” about Kuciak’s family. The police shelved the case, arguing this did not constitute even a misdemeanor. Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák downplayed the threat at that time.
Journalist Tom Nicholson says the very last topic Kuciak had planned to write about was the Italian mafia, Ndrangheta, in Eastern Slovakia and its drawing of EU funds intended for local farms. The mafia cultivated close relations with regional Smer representatives, adds Nicholson. The state is aware of the issue, as Kuciak was operating from leaked intelligence documents. Interestingly, Mária Trošková, the assistant and lover of PM Robert Fico, did business with the Italians in question in 2011-12. One of them, Antonino Vadala, is facing trial for real estate fraud in Bratislava.
PM Robert Fico said the government was offering a €1m reward to anyone providing information about the murder. Police President Tibor Gašpar opined that the murder is linked to Kuciak’s job. The police provided several other aktuality.sk journalists with police protection. The last time a journalist was killed in Central Europe was in 1992, in the Czech Republic.