Sordid details released in murder of investigative journalist

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Sordid details released in murder of investigative journalist

10. 10. 2018 15:16

In February of this year, while at their home in the western Slovak village of Velká Mača, investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were murdered, execution-style with a close-range gunshot to the chest for Kuciak and a bullet to the head for Kušnírová. The double murder of the two 27 year olds rocked the Slovak Republic, resulting in the resignation of the interior minister and prime minister, following the largest protests seen on Slovak soil since the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

After months of investigating and the apprehension and charging of four suspects, the Specialised Criminal Court published a detailed account on Tuesday, outlining how the murders were perpetrated, including monitoring the two victims beforehand, preparations for fleeing the scene after the murders, and how payment for the act was made.

Further details emerged that the woman who is suspected of ordering the murder, for legal reasons being only identified as Alena Zs., denies having any motive for wanting Kuciak dead. Alena Zs. allegedly provided a mobile phone and a photo of the murdered journalist along with his address to the killers and struck a deal to pay them €50,000 and deduct an additional €20,000 from a debt they owed her. Though, according to the Specialised Criminal Court, Alena Zs. was most likely only a mediator tasked with hiring the killers. The Court believes another individual had the primary motive and provided the funds to bankroll the crime.

Theories are running rampant in the Slovak media about the person or persons who bankrolled the murder, with many publications pointing fingers at controversial businessman Marián Kočner; currently in police custody being charged with tax evasion. Kočner's business practices had long been a target of the articles written by the murdered Kuciak, with Kočner allegedly threatening earlier this year to "dig up dirt" on Kuciak. The news publication, for which Kuciak worked, printed a transcript of the call, whereby Kočner allegedly warned Kuciak to back off, adding that "I will focus especially on you, your mother, your father, on your siblings."

Adding fuel to the fire, Zoltán A., one of the four people charged in the case of the murder, testified that the deaths were indeed ordered by Kočner. Zoltán A.'s lawyer, Lívia Kňažíková, confirmed this information to the private broadcaster TV Markíza on October 4. However, for the private broadcaster TV JOJ, she then denied that she had confirmed anything.

According to the Specialised Criminal Court, the hitmen were communicating via mobile phones purchased for €80. After committing the murders, the alleged perpetrator Tomas Sz. went to a football field, where he was picked up by Miroslav M. and together they met with go-between Zoltan A. For the murder, the men received €50,000 in 500 euro banknotes, wrapped in a handkerchief.

The Specialised Criminal Court decided to prosecute all the suspects in custody, due to concerns that they might constitute a flight risk, continue their criminal activities and influence witnesses. All the suspects save Zoltan A. appealed the decision, yet the Supreme Court turned down their complaint.

Gavin Shoebridge, Photo: TASR

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