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Slovakia: A dozen judges arrested in unprecedented anti-corruption raids

Bratislava, Slovakia – Law enforcement authorities conducted an unprecedented anti-corruption operation in the early hours of Wednesday. Police raided the houses and arrested several prominent judges and high-ranking government officials in Slovakia suspected of having cooperated with and received bribes from businessman Marian Kocner, the main suspect in the investigation into the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak.

Among the officials arrested by members of Slovakia’s National Crime Agency (NAKA): the vice-chair and acting president of the Supreme Court Jarmila Urbancová and former deputy-Justice Minister Monika Jankovska – who was forced to resign last year over her ties to Kocner.

The judges and officials, whose names appeared in the private communications of Kocner that prosecutors got hold of and who mostly worked in Bratislava courts, have been detained on charges of corruption, interference with the judiciary’s independence and obstruction of justice, local investigators said on Facebook.

The cooperation of another judge who was in close contact with Kocner through the encrypted app Threema, Vladimir Sklenka, was reportedly instrumental in facilitating the arrests.

In total, as many as thirteen judges were arrested on Wednesday as part of the so-called ‘Operation Storm’ that took place throughout Slovakia, along with one former judge, two attorneys and two civilians. Some of their houses were also searched and their mobile phones seized. They were all transferred to NAKA’s office in the city of Nitra, where Kocner himself was also brought shortly after.

“We need to robustly cleanse [the judiciary] from all those involved in corruption and bring them to a fair trial so that justice can be restored”, commented outgoing Justice Minister Gabor Gal following the raids.

Currently under trial for the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée in February 2018, Marian Kocner has already been sentenced to 19 years in prison in another, unrelated case.

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