A prominent Slovak businessman charged with commissioning the murders of journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend has been given a 19-year jail term for being found guilty, in a separate case, of forging €69 million worth of promissory notes.
Marián Kočner, together with former economy minister Pavol Rusko, used the promissory notes – a financial instrument where one party promises in writing to pay a determinate sum of money to the payee – to siphon money from Markiza, a top Slovak television station in 2016.
Rusko was the co-owner of Markiza between 1995 and 2000 and was also jailed for 19 years.
Both men can appeal the verdicts, which come just a few days before the country’s general election.
The news was welcomed by Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.
@RSF_inter welcomes the decision of #Slovakia court which sentenced businessman Marian Kočner to 19 years in prison for forging promissory notes (worth $69 million) of private @tvmarkiza. Kočner also faces charges in the murder case of #JanKuciak. https://t.co/XBxHGOeAaF
— Christophe Deloire (@cdeloire) February 27, 2020
Kočner is one of five people facing trial for the murders of Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová outside their Bratislava home in February 2018. The businessman is charged with being the mastermind behind the killings, which led to mass protests in Slovakia and mass resignations.
When handing down the verdict on Thursday, Judge Emil Klemanic of the Specialised Criminal Court said: “They are found guilty of the felony of forgery, altering and unauthorised manufacturing of money and securities”.
The two men acted together and “they forged securities with the aim to present them as real,” he said.
The television station Markiza is now owned by Central European Media Enterprises (CME), a publicly listed operator of central and eastern European TV stations whose majority shareholder is AT&T in the US.
Prosecutors said Rusko worked with Kočner to try to collect debts owed to Markiza using forged promissory notes falsely backdated to 2000. Markiza filed a criminal complaint against the men in 2018 and these were indicted by a special prosecutor’s office in 2019.