Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has offered a one-million-euro reward for information leading to the arrest of those behind the killing of a journalist who was about to publish an investigative report on alleged high-level corruption in the country, sources reported.
Reporter Jan Kuciak was killed with his fiancée. His investigative report was titled “Italian mafia in Slovakia - Its goblins extend into politics,” accusing the government of being linked to the Italian Mafia. According to local press reports, the reward offer by Fico also came after police commander Tibor Gaspar announced that the motive of Kuciak’s killing had been “most likely related to the investigative work of the journalist.”
Kuciak worked for the aktuality.sk news portal, owned by German-Swiss Axel Springer and Ringier media group and focused on fraud cases involving businessmen with alleged links to Prime Minister Fico’s ruling SMER-SD party and other politicians. Police had found Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova shot dead on Sunday at his home in Velka Maca, a town to the east of Bratislava.
“Two people from the circles of a man who came to Slovakia as someone accused in a mafia case in Italy have daily access to the country’s (Slovakia’s) prime minister,” Kuciak said in the incomplete article, which was nevertheless released by his news organization and several other local news sites after his killing.
“Italians with ties to the mafia have found a second home in Slovakia. They started doing business, receiving subsidies, drawing EU funds, but especially building relationships with influential people in politics — even in the government office of the Slovak Republic,” Kuciak further supposed.
The killing of the 27-year-old journalist raised concerns about press freedom in the tiny European Union (EU) country, drawing global condemnation by institutions such as the EU and the United Nations (UN), which demanded a quick and thorough investigation of his murder.
At the stroke of midnight that day, aktuality.sk and other news sites decided to publish Kuciak’s last, unfinished investigative report on possible political links to Italian businessmen with alleged ties to Calabria's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia supposedly operating in eastern Slovakia.
The daily’s article prompted a harsh rebuke from Fico, who showed reporters stacks of euro bills totaling one million euro in reward for information leading to the perpetrators.
Fico is known as a sharp critic of the media, once telling journalists in 2016 they were “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes.”