Police in Slovakia opened an investigation on Monday into the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kusnirova, whose bodies were found on Sunday in Velka Maca, about 65 kilometers from Bratislava.
Jan Kuciak, 27, was investigating important cases of tax evasion in Slovakia for the news site Aktuality.sk. “According to our information, it seems that the investigative work of the journalist is the most probable motive” of this murder, Slovak police chief, Tibor Gaspar, said at a press conference.
Jan Kuciak’s latest article for Aktuality, published on February 9, was about possible tax evasion linked to a luxury apartment complex in Bratislava, at the centre of a political scandal last year. He reported suspicious transactions by companies related to businessman Marian Kocner.
Following the scandal caused by the alleged frauds linked to the Bratislava apartment complex, demonstrations were organised in 2017 to demand the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, suspected of having business relations with the real estate agent, Ladislav Basternak, implicated in the case.
Robert Fico, the Slovak Prime Minister, said that if the double murder was linked to this investigative work, it would be “an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy in Slovakia”. He announced that his government was offering a million euros to all those who helped the authorities to find the perpetrators. President Andrej Kiska called for a quick investigation into the crime: “We must find the perpetrators as quickly as possible and ensure the safety of all journalists,” Kiska said in a statement.
Reporters without Borders, the international NGO that defends freedom of the press condemned the killing, pointing out that it is the fifth case of a journalist or journalists being murdered in an EU country in the past ten years. The most recent case occurred in Malta in 2017 where investigative reporter and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia who reported on high-level corruption was killed in a car bomb attack.
“An investigative reporter has yet again been murdered in a European Union country,” said Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “We call for an investigation in order to establish the exact circumstances of Ján Kuciak’s death and we demand that the authorities shed all possible light on this case, especially as he and those close to him had been threatened in recent months.”