Insight Slovakia

Was 2020 a turning point in Slovakia’s fight against corruption? (2/2)

Bratislava, Slovakia – After the high-profile Storm and Windstorm raids, Slovakia’s fight against corruption turned to the police itself, which had been playing God in recent months. At least 20 former or current high-ranking police officers were charged in the operations God’s Mills, Purgatory, and Judas that followed the police raids against representatives of the Slovak judiciary.

Action God’s Mills

At the beginning of September, Ludovit Mako, the former head of the Financial Administration’s Criminal Office, was taken in by police authorities. An investigator from the National Criminal Agency (NAKA) accused him of cooperating with the mafia group Takacovci, among other charges.

Ludovit Mako had also long been suspected of being in cahoots with the Bödör clan, a well-known oligarchic group that is allegedly funding the former ruling Smer party of ex-Prime Minister Robert Fico and de facto manages large swaths of the police in Slovakia. He has always denied these allegations, and refused to shed some light on its close relationship with several top companies and businessmen, or its dubious ownership of large estates.

Mako was taken into custody as part of the God’s Mills raid and proved instrumental in testifying against special prosecutor Dusan Kovacik who, despite have long been suspected of corruption in a number of cases, remained in office and was until then never indicted due to lack of sufficient evidence. In addition, his testimony also kick-started the subsequent Action Purgatory that took place two months later.

In addition to Mako, three other people were detained, including Frantisek Böhm, a former official of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) during the era of Ivan Lexa, in the well-known 52nd department focused on finding compromising evidence on politicians, journalists and the likes. Among other things, Böhm’s arrest tragically emphasises how long corrupt elites have been operating behind the scene of the Slovak police, unchecked, unaccountable and unpunished.

Action Purgatory

In the early days of November, former high-ranking police officers and officials faced another reckoning. The biggest catch of the raid was former head of Slovak police Tibor Gaspar. Gaspar has long been a controversial figure in Slovakia, especially following the numerous blunders made at the start of the investigation into Jan Kuciak’s murder. Him being a distant relative of Norbert Bodor didn’t help his case, and Kuciak himself had written about their connection which allegedly enabled Bodor to secure generous subsidies and access to multi-million state contracts over the years.

Other former police leaders were also taken into custody, such as Robert Krajmer, former NAKA director Peter Hrasko, former SIS interrogation chief Marian Zetocha, former deputy head of the NAKA´s national financial unit, and ex-director of the economic department of the Ministry of the Interior Martin Fleischer – all accused of coordinated efforts to influence police operations and investigations.

State prosecutors found evidence that, not only was this group of high-ranking officials tasked with influencing police investigations in favour of specific parties, but ensure that members of this underground network would be appointed to senior positions within Slovakia’s state apparatus. A total of eight former police officers were taken into custody, while Gaspar and nearly half a dozen other men faced accusations of founding and supporting a criminal organization, among other charges.

Action Judas

Another unexpected raid taking a swing at police corruption took place in early December. The Judas operation mainly targeted former police head Milan Lucansky two senior officials at the Slovak Information Service, as well as police investigator Marian Kucerka. All were accused of corruption, blackmail or of disclosing classified information.

The most surprising twist, however, came with the accusations against Milan Lucansky, who had so far avoided suspicion despite known links to some oligarchic groups. Böhm testified against Lucansky, claiming the latter had tried to warn him about his imminent arrest during the Action God’s Mills. According to Böhm and Norbert Paksi, deputy director of the special police activities, Lucansky also took heavy bribes, receiving €510,000 between August 2018 and the end of 2019 alone, while additionally receiving the so-called “monthly lump sum”, a payment to guarantee his continuous assistance.

Devoted to justice at first sight but corrupt official working behind the scenes, Lucansky became – in the eyes of many – the Judas of the Slovak police force. But unlike Judas, he continued to deny the allegations and claimed he was innocent, until his death on December 30 following an attempted suicide in prison.

From natural disasters to divine interventions: this brief look at the unprecedented anti-corruption actions Slovakia undertook last year shows that for years the country functioned on systemic corrupt practices going all the way to the top of the political and judicial establishment – and that more actions and discoveries this year will most certainly continue the work done in 2020.

By Lenka Hanulová

Originally from Bratislava, Lenka studied politics at King’s College and UCL in London, with a special focus on Russian and post-Soviet politics. She cooperated with several Slovak media and currently lives in Prague. Check out her latest articles right here!

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