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EDITORIAL

The first, but not the last

At some time between noon and one o'clock on a dreary January afternoon, former Economy Minister and SPP state gas monopoly chief Ján Ducký went downstairs in his apartment building to collect his mail. Someone waiting for him in the lobby with a silenced pistol put three bullets in his brain and fled, leaving Ducký in a pool of blood on the floor.
At the time of his death, Ducký was under investigation for defrauding the SPP gas utility and the state of hundreds of millions of Slovak crowns. While police have not yet solved the crime, there can be little doubt that Ducký's murder had something to do with his activities as a politician and a state-appointed official. There can be little doubt, too, that as the new cabinet moves ahead with prosecutions of former state functionaries for theft of state property, Ducký's will not be the last political killing in this country.


Taking No Chances. Former secret service boss Ivan Lexa is out to make sure he's not next on the hit-list.

At some time between noon and one o'clock on a dreary January afternoon, former Economy Minister and SPP state gas monopoly chief Ján Ducký went downstairs in his apartment building to collect his mail. Someone waiting for him in the lobby with a silenced pistol put three bullets in his brain and fled, leaving Ducký in a pool of blood on the floor.

At the time of his death, Ducký was under investigation for defrauding the SPP gas utility and the state of hundreds of millions of Slovak crowns. While police have not yet solved the crime, there can be little doubt that Ducký's murder had something to do with his activities as a politician and a state-appointed official. There can be little doubt, too, that as the new cabinet moves ahead with prosecutions of former state functionaries for theft of state property, Ducký's will not be the last political killing in this country.

The shrill reactions of Ducký's former party mates in the HZDS party of Vladimír Mečiar support this prediction. Forgoing condolences to Ducký's family, HZDS officials have instead accused Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda and Economy Minister Ľudovít Černák of fomenting a hate campaign against Ducký, and have even said they may apply to Amnesty International for protection of the political and human rights of HZDS members.

The HZDS is running scared, and so it should. Ducký, according to Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner, was up to his neck in shady dealings, but he was surely not the only HZDS or ruling coalition official to have emerged from six years of almost uninterrupted government with less than clean hands. If Ducký could be killed over SPP transactions, how safe can former secret service boss Ivan Lexa feel? What about HZDS deputy Vlastimil Vicen, who publicly vouched for underworld boss 'Žalud' (Peter Steinhubel)? How carefully does former FNM state privatisation agency chief Štefan Gavorník lock his door at night? And how is Armex armaments company leader Víťazoslav Móric sleeping, now that Ducký is dead?

When the current coalition parties were in opposition, they spoke breezily of plans for the 're-privatisation' of state property that had been sold illegally. They talked of the importance of the rule of law, and assured voters that crimes committed during the reign of the Mečiar government would be investigated.

It is clear now that these promises will be kept at the price of spilt blood. During the last four years under Mečiar, the mafia became a fact of daily life in Slovakia, and penetrated the highest organs of the state. Such people are not going to stand idle as the stolen property they amassed is repossessed by government investigators.

The police and the Interior Ministry have advanced several theories on the Ducký killing. First, they say, it could have something to do with Ducký's Iraqi oil connections: Michael Borisjevič Sergejev, Ducký's Moscow business partner who traded Iraqi oil through Turkmenistan, was shot and killed in Moscow on the same day that Ducký was murdered, as was another prominent businessman in Györ, Hungary. On the other hand, the Interior Ministry has said, the Ducký shooting might be related to his business with the Chemapol group in the Czech Republic, or even to a massive contract signed with the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in 1997. High stakes, indeed.

Ján Ducký's bloody corpse was filmed by television crews and broadcast around the nation at suppertime on the day of his death. Such disturbing sights and terrible events will become ever more frequent as the real cost of investigating the past begins to be paid.

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