Former Transport Minister Gabriel Palacka on April 17 strongly rejected claims made by the current Prime Minister, Robert Fico, linking him to alleged corruption in the construction of the Branisko Highway Tunnel. Ten people now face charges relating to the case. In a statement provided by Palacka to SITA news agency, he called the claims a monstrous lie.
"I have never had anything in common with that issue and I have never had any access to accounts in Switzerland. I do not know personally the people accused by the police. I have never met them," he explained. Palacka said that Fico’s comments on the issue on Wednesday (April 16) astonished him. The ex-minister also said that the prime minister was lying and making up groundless charges, as he has done many times before. According to Palacka, the prime minister used his name merely in order to create a connection between the criminal proceedings and the largest opposition party, the Social Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ-DS).
Fico spoke about the case at a news conference on Wednesday. It involves allegations dating back to 1992 that funds were siphoned from the Branisko Highway Tunnel project, which was completed under the previous government. Fico stressed that the Branisko case is part of his long-term agenda, and something he has been working on for five or six years. He told the news conference that he could not say more because evidence, such as receipts, was still missing. The prime minister stated that the former governing SDKÚ-DS party, which nominated senior managers at the Slovak Road Administration (SSC), was responsible.
Police announced on Tuesday that ten individuals have been charged with fraud over the Branisko Highway Tunnel case, including former SSC managers Dušan M., Roman V. and Valerian H., former SSC employee Krystyna D., and also Jan G., who represented the Swiss company Erga Suisse GmbH. Police have been working on the case since 2004. Police spokesman Martin Korch explained that they had achieved remarkable progress based on information received from Swiss officials in 2006. SITA
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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17. Apr 2008 at 16:00