PM Robert Fico announced that Deputy Agriculture Minister Marián Záhumenský has stepped down from his post. Fico said that he accepted Záhumenský’s decision but made no further comments on the situation.
Záhumenský stepped down following a subsidy scandal in which it was discovered that after taking office at the ministry, he changed the rules for approving subsidies to tobacco firms, resulting in an extra Sk4.4 million subsidy this year for Záhumenský’s own company Agrocontract. Záhumenský insisted, however, that his decision to step down was not connected with this case and that it was motivated by “personal reasons”.
Prior to Tuesday, when Fico announced the Záhumenský's resignation, the PM had stood firmly by the state secretary, who was nominated to the post by Fico’s Smer party.
Speculation is that Fico himself recommended Záhumenský to step down but both officials refuse to confirm this.
According to the Sme daily, Fico was angry after one of Slovakia’s tabloid newspapers, Plus 1 deň, ran a story which alleged that Záhumenský had accepted a deer shooting as a free as a gift from the state forestry company Lesy SR. Shooting a deer costs around Sk92,000 or more. Lesy SR is administered by the Agriculture Ministry.
According to the law on the protection of public interest, public officials must not accept any gift unless the gift is connected to their posts, such as gifts given by presidents of other states. When asked where his trophy from the deer shooting was on exhibit, Záhumenský hung up the phone on the Sme reporters.
The deer-hunting case will be discussed by the parliamentary committee for the incompatibility of posts as will the case of the disputable funding for Záhumenský’s Agrocontract company.