Role of investigative journalism in uncovering organised crime groups
February 26th, 2018, Slovakia was shocked by gruesome murders of the Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. One of the motives, with which the Slovak police works, might be his article related to the activities of Italian mafia in Slovakia.
The goal of this article is not to investigate who is responsible for the murders, but rather point out the importance and danger of investigative journalism in uncovering organised crime, which sometimes substitutes or even helps police work. This is the case of Jan Kuciak´s posthumously published report, which drew attention to the activities of people allegedly having ‘Ndrangheta ties.
One of the most serious problems of Slovakia in the 90s was organized crime. As a postcommunist country Slovakia had to deal with transformation to democratic society and market economy which inevitably led to mistakes. One of those mistakes was giving sufficient room for newly created organized crime groups. Unlike other countries, most of these groups were of Slovak origin. The recorded activities of international crime groups especially from the Soviet Union and Balkan countries were not so significant. At the beginning of the new millennium, however, Slovakia had exerted great amount of effort in eliminating the Slovak organized crime groups. Unfortunately, this created blank space which was soon filled with various foreign organizations.
One of the strongest Italian organized crime group – ‘Ndrangheta came in. According to Jan Kuciak¹, the representatives of this groups were involved in a number of criminal proceedings, however, they still managed to avoid justice. They started doing business, receiving subsidies, drawing up EU funds and building relationships with influential people in politics – as high as the Government Office of the Slovak Republic. Among others Jan Kuciak described possible Italian mafia involvement in fraud linked to the European Union subsidies and suspected tax evasion connected to a Bratislava apartment complex. Moreover, he pointed at the ties of the key figure of this group that leads up to the chief state adviser at the government office and the secretary of Slovakia’s security council, a body that deals with the most important security issues. Both the officials informed that they abdicate from their positions until the results of the investigation were available.
To these days corruption poses one of the major problems in Slovakia. Investigative journalist have been trying for the past twenty years to expose the ties of the political elite with people involved in tax fraud, organized crime, and corruptive behaviour. During that period in, in many occasions they have faced threats, physical violence, persecution. Yet this is the first time, when an investigative journalist has been killed. It is crucial, that in the democratic society, investigative journalist can rely on the police to protect their lives once they feel endangered, so that they keep the public informed with no limitations.
One of the characteristic features of organized crime is to work without any publicity. So is the case of the people described in Kuciak´s report. Although the authorities confirmed that these people were targeted in the past, the Information about the activities of the Italian organized crime group in Slovakia shocked prevailing part the public. Slovak investigative journalists have already uncovered cases of corruption, which led to convictions. With the highest likelihood, this or some other case, on which Jan Kuciak was working, led to his murder.
Note: This article is based on Jan Kuciak´s report Italian mafia in Slovakia. Tentacles reaching out to politics
Ladislav Kručanica, University of Security Management in Kosice