Slovak President Zuzana Caputova :
„There is nobody who is untouchable anymore!“
Former police president detained in operation Purgatory
there is nobody who is untouchable anymore, President Zuzana Čaputová said.
The National Criminal Agency (NAKA) have raided the houses of several former top police officials, including former police corps president Tibor Gašpar in Janíkovce (Nitra Region), beginning in the early morning hours of November 5.
As part of Operation Očistec (Purgatory), the police have detained and charged several people, said Jana Tökölyová, spokesperson for the Special Prosecutor’s Office, as reported by the Sme daily. Gašpar, who filed a criminal complaint against another former high-ranking official, Bernard Slobodnik, just the day before, is among those detained.
Apart from Janíkovce, NAKA has been searching houses in Ivanka pri Dunaji (Bratislava Region), where former head of NAKA Peter Hraško lives, and in Levice (Nitra Region), where former top-ranking police official Bernard Slobodník lives, the private broadcaster TV Markíza reported.
Meanwhile, former head of the Anti-Corruption Unit of NAKA, Róbert Krajmer, was brought to the Police Corps Presidium in Bratislava shortly after 7:00, the Aktuality.sk website reported.
The people detained reportedly include Marián Zetocha, former head of the financial intelligence unit at NAKA, who currently serves as the head of wire-tapping at the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency, according to the Topky.sk website.
The operation may be connected to the work of the special team formed last week, consisting of NAKA investigators and prosecutors of the Special Prosecutor’s Office. The team is investigating suspicions concerning the violent or economic crimes of current or former public officials.
The team is currently investigating the testimony of former head of the financial criminal investigators Ľudovít Makó, who has been held in custody due to allegations of him misusing his position, and former member of the SIS František Böhm, Sme reported.
Makó was arrested on September 17 and he reportedly decided to cooperate with the police. Special Prosecutor Dušan Kováčik was arrested a month later, allegedly based on Makó’s testimony.
A criminal complaint just one day before
Only a few hours before the police came to his house, Gašpar submitted a criminal complaint against Slobodník to the Special Prosecutor’s Office on November 4.
“I submitted a motion against Bernard Slobodník and other people in connection with the planned criminalisation of myself,” Gašpar told the TASR newswire, but refused to provide more details.
Slobodník testified at the Special Prosecutor’s Office on October 29. Gašpar did not say where he learned about Slobodník’s testimony. Neither Slobodník nor his lawyer Daniel Lipšic commented on his testimony.
“I will not specify on what issues and which people Bernard Slobodník’s testimony touched upon because it could endanger the ongoing investigation,” Lipšic said, as quoted by Sme.
Purgatory shows nobody is untouchable, president says
President Zuzana Čaputová called the arrests and house searches “a serious signal concerning the relevance of the suspicions the media have been reporting on”.
“With full respect to the presumption of innocence, we can say that Slovakia’s justice system is going through a cleansing process because there is nobody who is untouchable anymore,” the president stated, adding that equality before the law is at the heart of the rule of law.
PM Igor Matovič, who has been in home quarantine since Wednesday, simply reacted by re-posting his Facebook post from April, when the former head of the State Material Reserves Administration, Kajetán Kičura, was arrested. In it, Matovič wrote that “they will go down one after another”.
Later in the day, after his predecessor in the post, Smer leader Robert Fico, reacted to the detentions, Matovič posted again, calling Fico a “corrupted bastard”.
“I know he is exceptionally worried that the world he and Pellegrini built to protect them is definitively nearing its expiration date,” Matovič wrote.
During the press conference held in reaction to the arrest of the former Smer-nominated Police Corps president Gašpar, Fico was angered by journalists’ questions about whether he thought he would be the next person the police would come for.
He insisted that Gašpar was a good police corps president, with good results, but “I don’t know what these people did in their free time. If they failed, they should be punished,” he said. At the same time, he stressed that the presumption of innocence applies until a person is effectively ruled guilty.
Fico sees political orders
Fico also alleged that most of the arrests of former high-ranking police and judiciary members are done per political order, “to show the public how these people are led away in handcuffs”. He alleged these “shows” are to distract the attention from what he called the failure of the government to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Smer will turn to the European Commission, Fico said, to report that the European Parliament and EU Council directive about fostering some aspects of the presumption of innocence is being violated in Slovakia.
Peter Pellegrini of the emerging Hlas party, who served as prime minister for Smer between 2018 and 2020, distanced himself from Gašpar when he said that when he acted as interior minister briefly in 2018, he was the one to agree with his resignation as police corps president.
“When I was prime minister, Police Corps president Gašpar was no longer at the helm of the police,” Pellegrini said.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Juraj Šeliga of the Za Ľudí party, who in 2018 was one of the leaders of the For a Decent Slovakia protests that also called for the resignation of Gašpar, said the former Police Corps president will not be the last person to be detained. He holds Robert Fico and former interior minister Robert Kalinak of Smer responsible for the condition of the police and he called on Fico to confess and testify.
“Confession is extenuating circumstance,” he told the press briefing.