Slovakia charges man with ordering journalist's murder

Slovakia charges man with ordering journalist's murder

He accused the businessman of being involved in a VAT tax fraud scheme, which included buying and selling apartments to himself for nominal fees.

Slovak prosecutors said on Thursday (March 14) they had charged entrepreneur Marian Kocner with ordering the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, whose killing during a corruption probe triggered mass protests and toppled the country's prime minister.

Kuciak wrote about corrupt Slovak businessmen, European Union subsidy and Value-Added Tax fraud, and Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia and its attempts to cultivate ties with Slovak politicians.

Kuciak and Kusnirova, both aged 27 at the time of the attack, were found dead in the journalist's apartment in February 2018 with bullet wounds to the head and chest respectively. The protests past year prompted Prime Minister Robert Fico to resign. He declined to give any more details about this but said that the prosecutors are making sure that all the questions that arise from the witness hearings or from other evidence in the case of the Kuciak murder are being properly investigated. A few months before, Kuciak told police that Kocner had threatened to start collecting information on him and his family.

Kuciak later took the threat to the police, but the case was dismissed on the grounds that it was not a crime. "The reason for the murder was the journalistic work of the victim. The investigator relied on objective evidence that can not be specified now", the prosecutor said on Thursday.

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A lawyer for Kocner, who is in custody on unrelated charges of forgery, did not reply to calls or text messages seeking comment.

The charges come just days before Slovaks are to go to the polls for the first round of presidential elections on Saturday.

Multimillionaire Marian Kocner, who was charged with the murder last Thursday, was the director of International Investment Holdings, set up in 2010 but struck off the MFSA registry in 2016.

One of the suspects has cooperated with investigators but his testimony was not the only thing that led to Thursday's charges, prosecutors said on Thursday.

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