Italian mafia’s reach into Slovakia is ‘shocking’, president says

File Photo: Slovakia's President Andrej Kiska speaks during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Slovakia’s president has called the reach of the Italian mafia into his country “shocking”, after a report by security services he ordered in the wake of the killing of an investigative journalist.

Andrej Kiska’s comments appeared to be contradicted on Tuesday by Slovakia’s prime minister, who said the president had “misinterpreted” the report by the state intelligence service SIS.

In a commentary piece for the daily Dennik N, Kiska said he had ordered the report on the activities of the Italian mafia in the wake of the death of Jan Kuciak.

The reporter was shot along with his fiancee at home in February in what prosecutors say was a contract killing.

He had been investigating allegations that Italian businessmen in eastern Slovakia had fraudulently taken advantage of European Union agricultural subsidies.

His death prompted the biggest protests in Slovakia’s post-communist history, leading to a government shake-up that saw long-serving prime minister Robert Fico resign in March.

“What I got on my table literally shocked me,” Kiska wrote in his newspaper article on the SIS report.

He said it showed names of people and firms involved in subsidy fraud and land deals over the previous 10 years.

“And the result? Nothing. Silence,” he wrote. “No arrests, no massive police action.”

Kiska said that if the information in the SIS report was true, there was only one reason for the lack of action:

“These people were covered for by the state mafia, policemen, politicians who deliberately did not investigate and swept things under the carpet.”

SIS declined to comment.

Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said on Tuesday: “On March 4, the president received a compilation of 12 reports since 2000 on several suspected crimes that were investigated.

“The reports do not include any specific information on links between the mafia and the government,” he added. “I am sorry that Kiska has misinterpreted them like that.”

Kuciak’s final news report, published posthumously, alleged one Italian – who was charged with agricultural subsidy fraud in Slovakia this year – had business links in the past with two Slovaks who later went on to work in Fico’s office.

Both resigned as Fico aides but denied any connection with Kuciak’s killing. Before the Italian was charged in Slovakia, he had already been extradited to Italy on an unrelated drug-smuggling charge.

Kiska, a member of no political party, has said he will not seek re-election in 2019 but will remain active in politics. He defeated Fico in the last presidential election in 2014 and sided with the protesters who called for Fico’s ouster as prime minister.

Pellegrini, a member of Fico’s ruling Smer party, told Reuters in an interview this month the government must produce “deeds not words” to stamp out corruption and mafia-style crime.

Police made their first arrests in the Kuciak murder case after raids last month, but prosecutors have not yet suggested motives for the killing.

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