Bratislava, Slovakia – The last few weeks have seen many interesting and disturbing twists regarding the trial of Marian Kocner, an influential Slovak businessman who has been accused of ordering the murder of young investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova.
His murder shocked the country and sent Slovaks into the streets in the biggest mass protests the country has seen since the end of communism.
Over the past few weeks, Slovak media have been publishing excerpts from Kocner’s private conversations on Threema, a secure and encrypted mobile messaging application used by the businessman – including due to the fact that, unlike other apps, people can use it anonymously without registering an account.
From the tens of thousands of messages that public prosecutors have gotten their hands on last month, a number of them leaked to the media, which revealed highly interesting, albeit disturbing, content – including messages where Kocner and his partners make fun of Kuciak’s murder.
They include messages with the alleged killers of Kuciak and his fiancee, as well as several other messages with influential Slovak politicians, like former Prime Minister Robert Fico and ex-Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, both of whom resigned in the wake of Kuciak’s murder, although Fico remains head of the ruling Smer party and is believed to still be pulling the strings.
Kocner’s private messages also include communications with head of the Hungarian minority party Most-Hid Bela Bugar, members of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia of Marian Kotleba and other controversial figures of the Slovak political scene.
Some people involved in the Kuciak murder investigation have also been implicated in the messages and revealed to have had contacts with Kocner, prompting, for instance, the head of Slovakia’s criminal police to resign from his post.
But his wasn’t the only head to roll following the shock revelations regarding the behind-the-scenes links between Slovakia’s political elite, private interests and organized crime: since January, two deputy general prosecutors were forced out over their ties with Kocner.
Earlier this month, Slovakia’s deputy-Justice Minister Monika Jankowska also resigned under pressure from the opposition and the president. Jankowska, who criticized the attacks as “politically motivated”, was mentioned in Kocner’s messages where she was labelled as his “pawn” at the Justice Ministry.
Unsurprisingly, politicians implicated in these messages claim they are being misinterpreted, falsified and that they don’t provide any tangible proof regarding their ties to Marian Kocner, who has denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Nevertheless, the impact of these latest revelations shouldn’t be understated and sent shock-waves through a country learning more and more about the depths of corruption at the highest levels of government.
Will those text messages prove instrumental in breaking the case? We’ll just have to wait and see, as the case of Kuciak’s murder now rests in the hands of the Slovak police.