Zoltán Andruskó was today found guilty of the 2018 murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, and jailed for 15 years for acting as a middleman in the assassination, making him the first person to be sentenced.
Andruskó began cooperating with police last year and was tried separately from the other four men suspected of the murder. The trial of the other four started with a preliminary hearing on 19 December and will continue in January.
The news was welcomed by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF).
BREAKING: Zoltán Andruskó has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the murder of Slovak journalist #JánKuciak.
Andruskó began cooperating with police last year and was thus tried separately from the other 4 individuals allegedly involved in the murder.
— OCCRP (@OCCRP) December 30, 2019
According to the Slovak Spectator, Andruskó confessed to having passed the order for the murder from Alena Zsuzsová, a close collaborator of businessman Marian Kočner, who faces charges of ordering the murder of Ján Kuciak, to the two hitmen, Miroslav Marček and Tomáš Szabó. Andruskó cooperated with the police soon after he was arrested in September 2018 and was able to reach on the punishment with the prosecutor.
The OCCRP pointed out that the jail term proposed originally was 10 years but the court felt this was disproportionate to the crime committed and raised it to 15 years. “The accused, Zoltán Andruskó, traded human life,” one judge said. “He sold something that the Criminal Code strictly protects.”
Andruskó, who has been cooperating with the police since his arrest, had accepted to kill Kuciak and his fiancée in return for 50,000 euros in cash and the forgiveness of more than €20,000 in debt.
Kuciak and his fiancée were shot at close range in their home in Bratislava in February 2018. The murder sparked large-scale protests in 24 towns across Slovakia, and in 17 other cities around the world. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government resigned en masse after allegations surfaced that they were either complicit or negligent in the deaths.
If found guilty, the four suspects will likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars for commissioning, organising and carrying out the murders.
In an article published by Aktuality.sk, the portal Kuciak worked for, editor Peter Bardy wrote that if Kočner had ordered the murder, he did so because he was confident that his friends and his friends’ friends would protect him from the law.