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Harach "had to make a living"

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How did you come to own the land that makes up the Bernolákovo - Západ project?

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How did you come to own the land that makes up the Bernolákovo - Západ project?

Ján Vrba (JV): I don't handle business through the media. I'm not afraid to, I'm just telling you.

TSS: How much did you pay for the land?

JV: Do you think it's normal to resolve such things through the media?

TSS: Given the other cases that have surfaced recently of speculators picking people with restitution claims and through them getting their hands on lucrative plots of land for low prices, I think it would be normal for you to want to prove that this didn't happen in your case.

JV: There are no political connections here that could interest the public, so I'm not going to tell you how much it cost. If you have any evidence that this transaction took place thanks to some political connections, try to put them in writing.

TSS: Ľubomír Harach, the former deputy chairman of the SDKÚ party and a former economy minister, entered the project at a time when the SDKÚ was in government.

JV: But at the time he joined us he was no longer a politician. He had to make a living somehow.

TSS: Marta Hykaníková, who appeared to recover the land through restitution, claims she sold all her land 18 years ago. So did you really buy the land from her, or did you buy her restitution claim years before?

JV: She was the only one we could have bought the land from, and that's how it happened. It was an advantageous deal for all sides. In 95 percent of these cases, these people [restituents] were handicapped by the fact that they didn't have the money to make sure they got market value for their property. It costs an enormous amount of money, what with a single [development] project costing Sk10-15 million. On the other hand, the people who buy this land from them take on a huge risk, because no one can know how it will work out.

TSS: What was Anna Čukanová's role in this case?

JV: It wasn't like it seemed in other cases, that someone came along and said [to a restituent], "If you want, I'll get your land back for you, but then you have to sell it to me". In this case she did a lot of work, because it was very difficult to get Mrs Hykaníková's claim accepted. And Mrs Hykaníková realised that without her (Čukanová's) help, she would basically have got nothing. Čukanová ensured that she was even in a position to get something. That's why she had such authority from that lady, because she arranged everything. She took all the risks, because Mrs Hykaníková couldn't pay her anything. If nothing was restituted, Čukanová would get nothing, and if something was, then she would make a profit.

TSS: Like the rest of Land Group's owners, Čukanová is from eastern Slovakia, Snina, right?

JV: There you go! And I'm from Humenné. I've known Dr Harach and Dr Čukanová for ages. She is at her wit's end, because since last November they [the media] have been chasing her [over suspect restitutions], and her head hurts from it.

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