Slovakia: Police arrest Italian businessman named by murdered reporter

Slovak police have arrested an Italian businessman who had been named in the final investigative report by slain journalist Jan Kuciak. The reporter alleged the suspect had links to Slovak politicians and the Mafia.

The Slovak general prosecutor's office said Tuesday it had detained Antonino Vadala in the eastern town of Michalovce over a drugs-related charge.

In a statement, the prosecutor's office said it had acted on a European arrest warrant issued by a court in Venice.

"The Italian court is demanding the extradition of Antonino V. for prosecution in Italy for a drug offense committed by an organized criminal group with a transnational scope."

Read moreSlovakia shaken to the core after 'mafia structures' revealed

Vadala was mentioned several times in an investigation by journalist Jan Kuciak, who was last month found shot dead at his Bratislava home with his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova. The 27-year-old's report, published unfinished days after his death, alleged high-level corruption and ties between the Mafia and businessmen operating in Slovakia.

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The allegations

Vadala, who lives in eastern Slovakia and is the owner of several companies, was detained and released earlier this month along with six other Italians over the alleged crimes detailed in Kuciak's investigation. Kuciak alleged that Vadala had past business connections with two Slovaks who went on to work in the prime minister's office. Vadala denies the claims.

Read moreMafia ties and journalist's murder threaten to bring down government

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Venice chief prosecutor Bruno Cherchi said in a statement Vadala was under investigation for being part of a group dedicated to "international drugs trafficking and money laundering" that used apparently legal channels to import drugs from South America.

Read more'Slovakia's systemic corruption is killing people'

Government collapse?

Kuciak's murder triggered mass protests across Slovakia and calls for the government of Prime Minister Robert Fico to step down.

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Police have interviewed more than 100 people as part of the investigation into the killings, but no one has yet been charged.

Slovakia's opposition party on Tuesday requested a no-confidence vote against the government. The vote, to take place next week, could see the collapse of the three-party ruling coalition that came to power following 2016 elections.


Biggest protests since 1989

Slovakia has witnessed its largest protest since anti-communism rallies in 1989, with an estimated 50,000 gathering in the capital, Bratislava. The reason: the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. Their murders sent shockwaves across the country and the EU. Kuciak was working on a story linking businessmen operating in the country with the Italian Mafia before his death.


'Enough of Fico'

The protesters have demanded Prime Minister Robert Fico and the rest of his government resign. According to Kuciak's last unfinished story, one of the businessmen had worked with two people who worked in Fico's office. Although the men have resigned and denied any links, Slovak citizens are frustrated at the government's failure to tackle corruption in the country, chanting "Enough of Fico."


Growing frustration

Kuciak's murder has pushed growing frustration to a fever-pitch, with protesters saying the government can't be trusted to properly investigate the crime. "Politicians in power have lost our trust," said one of the protesters. "We don't trust them to guarantee an independent investigation. They have failed to investigate all previous scandals."


Crisis of trust

Slovak President Andrej Kiska, considered a political rival of the prime minister, said the country is facing a crisis of trust. He has called on the government to reconfigure its three-party coalition or face early elections. But that's not what protesters have demanded. Instead, demonstrators have called for a "new trustworthy government."


'Last story'

Analysts believe Fico is unlikely to make out of the ensuing political crisis. Martin Slosiarik of the Focus polling agency told Reuters news agency. "Kuciak's last story has had a serious impact on people's trust in the system of government, and the murder of two young people has added a strong moral aspect," said Slosiarik. ls/sms (Reuters, dpa)

nm/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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