The wife of former Economy Minister Ján Ducký breaks down as she approaches the murder scene of her husband. Ducký, who until November was boss of the SPP state-owned gas utility, was under investigation for defrauding SPP of millions if crowns at the time he was shot.
By January 14, police had still not identified the assassin nor a motive for the crime, and would say only that Ducký had taken three bullets to the head from a 7.65 millimeter pistol that probably had a silencer attached. "We have obtained a description of one man that was present on the scene of the crime at the time of the murder," said Jaroslav Penc, head of the Bratislava Regional Police Headquarters, at a January 11 press conference.
Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said that his cabinet would use all tools to investigate the crime, but warned that the murder might have been politically motivated. "It could be a sign to the government from certain groups not to proceed in investigating crimes and mismanagement of state property during the most recent period [of the Mečiar government]," Dzurinda said, adding that the cabinet would not be deterred from exposing past misdeeds.
On January 8, Černák accused Ducký of having given half a million Deutsch marks (over 10 million Sk) of SPP money to the Czech football club FC Petra Drnovice for "advertising" only two days before the new cabinet took office. "It looks like Ducký organised it himself, but he wasn't the only one involved," said Černák at a press conference.
Černák said that up to 90% of all contracts signed by SPP in 1998 were illegal, most of them because the company did not give the state prior notice of its intentions.
At another press conference on the day Ducký was shot, new SPP director Pavel Kinceš widened the charges of financial mismanagement at SPP to include 21 separate cases of wrongdoing, including 367 million Sk given by SPP to Slovan Sportmedia, of which Ducký was chairman of the board, as well as a 1997 contract between SPP and Russian gas giant Gazprom and contracts with firms Corinex, Donar and others.
"The results of an internal audit carried out at the Slovak Gas Company [SPP] by the Slovak Economy Ministry point to suspicions of malfeasance involving former SPP director Ján Ducký," said Kinceš, adding that "breaches of the law" were suspected.
On January 13, the Pravda daily newspaper reported that former SPP financial director Ivan Maroš was in hiding in Australia.
The HZDS, however, reacted firecely to allegations that Ducký's death was connected to his tenure at SPP, accusing Dzurinda, Černák and Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner of being personally responsible for the "political intolerance and constantly inflamed hatred of the HZDS" which resulted in Ducký's death.
HZDS caucus chairman Tibor Cabaj said at a press conference on January 11 that Ducky's murder had a political background in the ruling coalition, and was a consequence of a "hate campaign against SPP under the leadership of Mr. Ducký. I'm shocked, because officials such as Mr. Dzurinda or Mr. Pittner have said a lot about how they would deal with the situation [with organized crime] in Slovakia, but so far it looks like only HZDS officials are being directly attacked."
Milan Topoli, HZDS vice-chairman, said that Černák had openly accused Ducký of frauds and financial mismanagement without providing a single piece of evidence. "This is unacceptable practice in a democratic state," Topoli said, adding that Ducký's murder had no connection to his professional activities. "He would never get involved with some mafia group," Topoli said.
Several days later, the HZDS was at it again, releasing a statement that stopped just short of accusing the cabinet of ordering the murder. "It was the ruling coalition that organised a media hunt against Ducký which has no peer in the world, even in the dark Communist 1950's," the statement read. "Ján Ducký was an uncomfortable witness for the coalition because he was about to demonstrate evidence of his innocence."
Economy Minister Cernak refuted the HZDS allegations, claiming that he had based his statements towards Ducký and the SPP on the preliminary results of an audit of the firm.
Other ruling coalition politicians expressed sympathy for Ducký's family, but said the case revealed how far the mafia had penetrated Slovak politics. "With this case, Slovakia has moved several steps closer to Russia, where similar murders are part of daily life," said Peter Weiss, vice-chairman of the reformed communist SDL party, during a political debate on the independent station TV Markíza. "We must not succumb to this situation, but we must deal with organized crime immediately."