A young Slovak investigative journalist, Ján Kuciak, has been found shot dead alongside his fiancée Martina Kušnírová at their home in the town of Vel’ka Mača near the country’s capital Bratislava. Police have said that the pair were “probably” killed because of his investigative work. Kuciak, who was 27, had reported for news agency Aktuality.sk on a number of high-profile fraud cases, often involving businessmen with connections leading politicians.
“From the information available it seems that the most likely version is a motive connected to the investigative work of the journalist,” Slovak police chief Tibor Gaspar told a news conference on February 26. “Slovakia has never faced such an unprecedented attack on a journalist,” he added.
Aktuality’s publisher Axel Springer condemned what it called the “cruel assassination” of its journalist, and Slovakia’s leaders promised to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.
Prime Minister Robert Fico condemned the killings and announced a 1 million euro reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible
Mr Kuciak’s last article for Aktuality was published on February 9 and covered a suspected tax fraud connected to a luxury apartment complex in Bratislava, a sotry he had been covering for some time. The report identified suspicious transactions among five companies.
The case around the apartment complex prompted protests last year to demand the resignation of Interior Minister Robert Kalinak over his business dealings with property developer Ladislav Basternak, who has been investigated over possible tax fraud. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Gašpar said that everyone who had been in touch with the journalist would be investigated, and that the police protection would be provided for a number of other reporters from the agency.
Back in 2016, Mr Fico infamously told a group of journalists that they were “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” following questions surrounding allegations that public procurement rules had been broken during the organisation of cultural events to mark Slovakia’s presidency of the European Union.