PROMINENT Slovak attorney Ernest Valko was found shot dead in the late evening of November 8 in his family house in Limbach, near Bratislava. The shooting and death was confirmed by Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic and Police President Jaroslav Spišiak but they refused to provide any further details on the case pending more information becoming available in the ongoing investigation. Motives for the killing are unclear.
Valko was a well-known lawyer in Slovakia. He had served as the deputy speaker of the lower house of the Czechoslovak federal parliament in the period 1990-1991 and in 1992 was chosen as the top official of the Czechoslovak Constitutional Court.
After the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993 Valko started his own law firm and specialised in constitutional law.
Valko represented a number of state institutions under the two governments of Mikuláš Dzurinda from 1998 to 2006, including the country’s National Property Fund and SPP, the country’s gas utility company.
Recently Valko represented Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš in a libel lawsuit filed against Robert Fico, the leader of the opposition Smer party, in which Mikloš was successful.
Valko also was recently representing the state-owned lottery company, Tipos, in a suit in which there is the possibility that the state might lose €66 million.
Valko was close to the current ruling coalition, especially to the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union party (SDKÚ). A week before his murder he had been appointed to the Supervisory Board of SPP, the sme.sk news server reported.
In 2006 Valko was detained by the police, along with financier Ladislav Rehák, and charged with extortion in connection with property in the western-Slovak region of Záhorie. Prosecution was halted in the spring of 2008.
In the aftermath of the killing, Slovak attorneys and politicians expressed shock about Valko’s violent death. The Slovak Bar Association (SAK) stated they hope that the shooting of their colleague will be thoroughly investigated as soon as possible and that the public will learn the whole truth about the incident.
“Dr. Ernest Valko, both as a man and colleague-attorney, represented in his work the principles of advocacy such as independence, professional reticence and promoting the interests of his clients within the legal limits,” the head of SAK’s media department, Naďa Ondrišová, told the TASR newswire.
Štefan Detvai, an attorney and former SAK president, told the SITA newswire that he did not believe Valko’s death was connected with his work and said it is more likely to be a private matter.
“It’s a great loss for Slovak advocacy,” said another lawyer, Ondrej Mularčík, who in the past also served as the head of SAK. “If it was connected with his work, it’s a disaster.”
Security analyst Milan Žitný said in an interview with the TASR newswire that Balkan-style gangster approaches to resolving disputes still lingers in Slovakia.
“I mean that sort of banditism of the eastern type, that Balkan-Russian style, where conflicts get resolved in this way,” Žitný said, as quoted by TASR. “Civilised Europe doesn’t know something like this. This is only happening in the post-communist countries and we are still not out of it.”
Former interior minister Robert Kaliňák told TASR that during his term in office he did not possess any information that Valko’s life was under any kind of threat. Former police president Ján Packa made a similar comment.
9. Nov 2010 at 10:30 | Compiled by Spectator staff