In a belated firecracker for the New Year, the pro-government daily Slovenská Republika ran a front-page story fingering some European countries' secret services of participating in the abduction of the Slovak President's son, Michal Kováč Jr, and implying that the American Ambassador to Slovakia, Ralph Johnson, was involved in the affair.
The January 2 story, crowned with the question "Was the Michal Kováč Jr. affair a coordinated action among various secret services?" alleged that the intelligence services from Hungary, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic assisted in Kováč Jr.'s abduction and its coverup, and stated that colleagues around "former CIA agent" Ralph Johnson had been in touch with some of the leading players in the case.
Kováč Jr., wanted for questioning by international police for his possible role in an international fraud case involving the Slovak company Technopol, was kidnapped and taken over the border into Austria in August 1995. The government has denied any role in the abduction, though two police detectives investigating the incident have concluded that the Slovak Intelligence Service was involved. They both were removed from the case by the prosecutor general, who later suspended the investigation for lack of evidence.
Representatives at the US Embassy's press office said neither they nor the ambassador would comment on the allegations, but privately they are denying it, saying they're baseless. In an indirect denial, Embassy officials sent out a biography that showed Johnson was the coordinator for the congressionaly-funded Support for Eastern European Development Act in Washington, DC at the time that Kováč Jr. was abducted. He took over the ambassadorial post in Slovakia in May 1996.
According to a source familiar with the affair, a US Embassy press attaché was dispatched to Republika's editorial offices to ask on what basis the paper connected Johnson with the CIA. According to the source, Republika's editor-in-chief, Eduard Fašung, told the US press aide "We have our sources," but refused to divulge who or what they were.
The Swiss Embassy denied in a statement that its secret service was involved in the abduction or its aftermath. "We have no knowledge of any such involvement," the statement said. "The allegations seem to be absurd."
16. Jan 1997 at 0:00 | Richard Lewis