Bratislava, Feb 26 (CTK) – Investigative reporters Jan Kuciak, working for the Aktuality.sk online news portal, and his girlfriend were murdered in Slovakia this weekend, while his work was the most probable motive, Police President Tibor Gaspar told reporters on Monday.
The victims were shot dead by a single shot each. The double murder was committed between Thursday and Sunday when the bodies were found, he added.
Dennik N daily wrote about the murder on Monday, referring to the Interior Ministry.
Kuciak was murdered in his flat in Velka Maca village near Trnava, west Slovakia, during the weekend.
The 27-year-old journalist primarily focused on tax evasion suspicions, implicating people close to the strongest government Smer-Social Democracy party of PM Robert Fico, Dennik N writes.
NAKA elite police unit chief Peter Hrasko told daily Sme that they would investigate the crime as a premeditated murder. A regional prosecutor was sent to the scene of crime.
The police did not find the murder weapon on the spot and no one was detained in connection with the case.
Police officers checked the journalist’s home on Sunday evening at the request of his girlfriend’s mother who could not get in touch with her daughter, Gaspar said.
Slovak Prosecutor General Jaromir Ciznar said the investigation has been complicated by the time gap between the probable day of the murder and the day when the victims were found.
“We are in delay. The crime was probably committed on Thursday evening,” Ciznar told reporters, adding that his office is also dealing with the case of a suspected threats addressed to another journalist.
Most recently, Kuciak dealt with a scandal around businessman Marian Kocner connected with several tax and banking cases, which drew attention of the authorities and media, according to the paper.
At the beginning of February, Kuciak wrote about further suspicious transfers of apartments in the Five Star Residence luxurious complex in Bratislava.
Investigative journalist Tom Nicholson has told Dennik N that he and Kuciak wrote to each other last week about the suspicion that probably the Italian mafia has been misusing EU subsidies through a fictitious growing of bio-quality plants in east Slovakia.
Kuciak worked on the case on this group that was probably interlinked with Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia, Nicholson said.
Previously, Kuciak looked into firms with unclear ownership structure and businessman Roman Vrto, a former member of the strongest opposition Freedom and Solidarity party, who was drawing subsidies for an allegedly failed mobile application.
Kocner was in focus in 1998 over an unsuccessful attempt to take over the most popular Slovak private TV Markiza with the aid of the SIS counter-intelligence service agents.
Kocner was intimidating Kuciak last autumn, warning that he would “start getting interested in his parents and family,” Aktuality.sk writes.
Kuciak filed a legal complaint against Kocner, but the case was not allocated to any investigator after 44 days, he wrote on social networks last year.
The police do not protect any journalists now, but can provide such protection of selected reporters at their places of residence, especially in the night, if need be, Gaspar said.
The Ringier Axel Springer publisher operating Aktuality.sk, for which Kuciak worked for three years, also confirmed a suspicion of the murder being connected with his investigative work.
This has been the first known murder of a journalist in Slovakia.
However, another investigative journalist Pavol Rypal, who dealt with mafia issues, has been missing for ten years. In 2015, the Slovak police asked the public to help search for the Hospodarske noviny financial paper’s reporter, Miroslav Pejka.
Several meetings in commemoration of the murdered couple are being planned at various places in Slovakia. A march for the victims is to cross the centre of Bratislava next month.