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AFP
February 28, 2018

Murdered Slovak journalist ‘was probing high-level graft’

World

AFP
February 28, 2018

BRATISLAVA: Murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak was about to publish an investigation into high-level political corruption, the country´s leading newspaper said Tuesday as the killing stoked concerns about graft and press freedom in the small EU state.

Prime Minister Robert Fico has offered a one million euro ($1.2 million) reward for information leading to the killers´ capture after police commander Tibor Gaspar said the motive was "most likely related to the investigative work of the journalist". Police found Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova shot dead on Sunday at his home in Velka Maca, a town to the east of the capital Bratislava. The shock murder has drawn international condemnation, with organisations including the European Union and United Nations calling for a swift and thorough investigation.

Candlelit vigils have been held for the couple, whose killing has triggered calls for fresh anti-corruption protests in the central European country after a wave of demonstrations last year. Kuciak, 27, reported for the aktuality.sk news portal owned by German-Swiss Axel Springer and Ringier media group and focused his work on fraud cases involving businessmen with links to Fico´s governing SMER-SD party and other politicians.

He died from a gunshot wound to the chest while his partner was shot in the head, according to Gaspar. Police reportedly found ammunition arranged around the bodies with the Pravda daily describing the scene as a "warning". The leading SME newspaper reported that Kuciak was about to publish an article on possible political links to Italian businessmen with alleged ties to the notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia supposedly operating in Slovakia. Contacted by AFP, Fico's office offered no immediate comment.

The murder followed the killing in Malta of campaigning journalist blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia -- who exposed crime and corruption on the Mediterranean island -- in a car bombing on in October.

Tom Nicholson, a British-born investigative journalist who worked closely with Kuciak, said he was investigating "the fraudulent payment of EU transfer funds to Italian nationals resident in Slovakia with alleged ties to the ´Ndrangheta" organised crime group from Italy´s Calabria region.

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