Before he was murdered, a Slovakian journalist had been investigating the Italian Mafia. Now, his unfinished report has been published for all to read.
Jan Kuciak, 27, had been probing his country’s political links to organized crime for months before he and his partner Martina Kusnirova were found shot dead Sunday evening in their home in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava. “To honor his memory, set the record straight, and minimize the danger to his colleagues,” the investigative journalism organization that supported his reporting published his last work before he died on Wednesday.
“At the time of his killing, he was continuing to collect records on men considered by Italian police to be extremely dangerous,” the group said in a statement.
The report revealed that a former topless model and Miss Universe contestant hired as an assistant to the Slovakian prime minister had previously co-founded a business with an Italian man suspected of having ties to the powerful Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta. The Prime Minister, Robert Fico, gave the former contestant, Maria Troskova, a job, despite her lack of relevant credentials.
The Italian police had issued an arrest warrant for the man, Antonia Vadala, in 2001, according to the report. They allegedly caught him on wiretaps discussing drug trafficking in Calabria. But by that point, Vadala had already moved to Slovakia, and the charges were dropped.
Several Slovakian newspapers also published Kuciak’s report, his last before he died, on Wednesday as the fallout over the killings continued to grow.
Read the full report here.
Kuciak is the first journalist to be killed in Slovakia; police said the killings were carried out professional hitmen, likely in retaliation for his work, which focused on fraud cases involving businessmen with links to the government. Transparency International ranks Slovakia as the seventh most corrupt member of the European Union.
Following reports that the former Miss Universe content was a focus of Kuciak’s final investigation, the prime minister warned journalists to be careful with their accusations on Tuesday.
“Do not link innocent people without any evidence to a double homicide,” Fico said at a press conference, standing next to a pile of one million euros ($1.2 million) in banknotes that the government is offering as a reward for clues in the slayings. “It's crossing the line. It's no longer funny.”
Another Slovakian-based journalist, Tom Nicholson, told reporters that Kuciak told him before his death that he was investigating potential mafia involvement in the payment of fraudulent European Union subsidies in eastern Slovakia.
Some members of the the opposition party have accused national police chief Tibor Gaspar and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak of failing to protect Kuciak when he filed criminal complaints after receiving threats. The opposition has now called for anti-corruption protests in Bratislava on Wednesday, and demanded both Gaspar and Kalinank resign. Slovakia’s Culture Minister Marek Madaric did resign on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
"As the culture minister, I am not able to cope with the fact that a journalist was killed during my time in office," he said Wednesday.