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PM’s ex-aide held over biathlon corruption claims

THE CORRUPTION allegations surrounding the reconstruction of biathlon facilities in Osrblie, which is supposed to host the 2012 European Biathlon Championships next February, have now landed two suspects in pre-trial custody.

THE CORRUPTION allegations surrounding the reconstruction of biathlon facilities in Osrblie, which is supposed to host the 2012 European Biathlon Championships next February, have now landed two suspects in pre-trial custody.

A former external advisor on economics to Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, Martin Novotný, was charged with indirect corruption in the case after being detained on August 18 following his return to Slovakia from a holiday in the USA. He is now in pre-trial custody after his continued detention was approved by the Specialised Criminal Court on August 20. On August 24 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal in which he sought to be released on bail.

The Specialised Criminal Court, which deals with high-profile corruption cases, based its August 20 ruling on fears that Novotný might try to influence witnesses in the case.

Novotný, along with former ambassador to Kenya Igor Líška – who is also currently in detention – and the owner of the construction company which was commissioned to reconstruct the facilities, have all been charged over an alleged bribe associated with a government grant paid to the Slovak Biathlon Association (SZB) and the Biathlon Club Osrblie. The money was intended to contribute to the completion of a multifunctional building in Osrblie’s biathlon centre.

The government assigned a total of €1.6 million for the project, with €1 million to come from the Education Ministry, €300,000 from the Finance Ministry and the other €300,000 from the prime minister’s financial reserve.

“Immediately, some persons appeared who started acting as if 10 percent belonged to them,” Prime Minister Iveta Radičová said when she announced that the government had suspended the grant after €300,000 of it had been paid out. She referred to events that occurred on July 29, when police detained three people that they allege were in the act of passing a bribe of €30,000, or 10 percent of the state’s grant up to that time.

Doubts over Líška’s past record

Meanwhile, the non-governmental organisation Magna Deti v núdzi (Magna Children in Need), which has been involved in humanitarian aid projects in Kenya, said that it had made a complaint about Líška when he served as ambassador in Kenya, alleging that he requested bribes in return for securing development aid. The complaint was investigated by the Foreign Ministry at the time, Magna said, as reported by the Sme daily.

“Igor Líška requested a fee from the organisation Magna Deti v núdzi for a grant from the Slovak development aid fund, which we were competing for,” Magna’s Martin Bandžák told Sme, adding that the grant was for a total of USD18,000. The incident is alleged to have occurred in 2006, and appears to have resulted in no consequences for Líška, despite the fact that Bandžák claims he attended a commission hearing where he described what had happened.

The Foreign Ministry, however, has said it does not have any official record of the complaint in its archives. The foreign minister at the time, Ján Kubiš, a Smer party nominee who now holds a senior UN position, refused to comment on the case for Sme, saying he did not want to give any incorrect information.

Neither the ministry nor Kubiš were able to explain why the record of the commission hearing and the complaint was missing, Sme wrote.

For more information about the Osrblie corruption case see: Bribe claims threaten major event.

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