ONE OF the main centre-right parties, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), is facing corruption allegations over two flats which prominent members bought 11 years ago at allegedly low prices from a company that later won lucrative orders from the state. While the SDKÚ has called the allegations a pre-election stunt, the prime minister made clear she would like to see the matter explained.
SDKÚ treasurer Igor Kucej and general secretary Štefan Hudec both acquired 137-square-metre three-bedroom flats in Bratislava in 2000 from the Hornex company for Sk3 million (about €71,500 at 2000 exchange rates), the Sme daily reported on November 14. It added that the Interior Ministry, at that time headed by SDKÚ nominee Ladislav Pittner, bought 10 flats in the same building at that time, and that the Defence Ministry under Pavol Kanis of the Democratic Left Party (SDĽ) bought another 17.
Hornex enjoyed considerable success in winning state orders under the first government of Mikuláš Dzurinda (SDKÚ) between 1998 and 2002. In 1999-2000, for instance, it reconstructed the cabinet-run Bôrik hotel in Bratislava, an order worth about €1.46 million, according to Sme. Altogether, Hornex won orders for Sk875 million (about €21 million) under Dzurinda’s first government, Sme reported, citing data from the Fair-Play Alliance, a political ethics watchdog.
Both Hudec and Kucej rejected allegations that they were able to buy the flats from Hornex at an advantageous price, and also denied any connection between their ownership of the flats and Hornex’s success in winning state orders. Sk3 million was the regular purchase price of a flat in 2000, the SDKÚ wrote in its reaction to Sme’s story. In its statement for the press the SDKÚ demanded an apology from the daily for Kucej and Hudec and noted they will both use legal means to respond further.
The SDKÚ also defended its treasurer and general secretary by pointing to the fact that at that time the Defence Ministry was headed by a nominee of the left-wing SDĽ, not the SDKÚ, and that in 2000 Kucej was not the party’s treasurer and Hudec was not its general secretary.
“If anyone sees political connections in this matter, they must have some weird fantasy,” SDKÚ wrote in the statement.
Initially, Kucej insisted he did not know whether he had got an advantageous price because he did not know what price the other flats in the building were sold at. The price the Defence Ministry paid for one square metre in the same building was one third higher, Sme wrote.
Later, Kucej admitted he “perhaps might have been given some small advantage as a friend”, because his brother was a member of the board of Hornex.
While SDKÚ chairman Mikuláš Dzurinda said Sme’s story was based on disinformation and that he regards it as a pre-election attack, the SDKÚ-nominated prime minister, Iveta Radičová, criticised Kucej and Hudec and said they should explain the issue.
“I buy real estate properly,” she said as quoted by Sme. “This is a style of politics that I absolutely reject.”
21. Nov 2011 at 0:00 | By Michaela Terenzani with press reports