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Murdered Slovak journalist investigated businessman with Malta links 

Slovak businessman Marian Kočner allegedly used Malta for money laundering and tax evasion

Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova were murdered at their home

A 27-year-old Slovak journalist shot dead with his girlfriend on Sunday was probably targeted over his investigative work, Slovakian police said. One of Kuciak’s main investigations centred around a businessman who allegedly used Malta for tax evasion and money laundering purposes.

Jan Kuciak worked for news server Aktuality.sk on fraud cases, often involving businessmen with ties to Slovakia’s ruling social-democrat party and other politicians.

Kuciak is the second journalist killed in the EU in five months, after journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in Malta in October 2017.

The journalist’s most recent story exposed allegedly suspect transactions by firms linked to businessman Marian Kočner and linked to a Bratislava luxury apartment complex that became the center of a political scandal last year.

In September, Kuciak filed a criminal motion against Kočner, for threatening him.

“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 televised news conference.

Reacting to Kuciak’s assassination, Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew said Kočner used Malta for money laundering and tax evasion.

Kočner ran a tax evasion scheme through Malta “using shell and holding companies set up and managed by Christian Ellul and Karl Schranz, respectively his lawyer and accountant in Malta,” Matthew Caruana Galizia said.

Kočner’s daughter was married to his Maltese lawyer, Christian Ellul but the two are now divorced. However Ellul and Schranz remain directors of Kočner’s companies.

The murder has shocked the small central European country and highlighted public concerns about corruption.

Andrew Caruana Galizia – also son of the murdered Maltese journalist – said his family warned the European Commission that with his mother’s assassination Malta had set a new standard of permissible behaviour within the EU and that others would soon die if decisive action isn’t taken.

In 2014, MaltaToday reported that Kočner received €4 million from an unidentified Maltese bank which Slovak authorities linked to alleged bribes paid to politicians in Slovakia.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media said “We cannot accept  journalists to become regular targets for attacks and killings because of their investigation on corruption.”

Socialist MEP Ana Gomes also took to Twitter to condemn the murder and described Kuciak murder as “awful and alarming news” adding that he is the second investigative journalist assassinated in the EU.

She said the common thread between Kuciak and Caruana Galizia’s assassinations is that both were investigative journalists who dared to expose “corruption, the corrupt, often those in power captured by corruption.”

Kuciak and his girlfriend were found dead on Sunday at his home in Velka Maca, 65 km east of the capital Bratislava.

Aktuality’s publisher Axel Springer condemned what it called the “cruel assassination” of its journalist while the international group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it was “appalled” at the murder.

Slovakia’s leaders promised to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.  Robert Fico’s government is offering a €1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever is responsible for the journalist’s death. A similar reward was offered by the Maltese government following Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Jan Kuciak

Investigative journalist shot dead in his home

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