GORILLA, a leaked file purporting to describe an operation conducted by the country’s main intelligence agency between 2005 and 2006 over suspicions of high-ranking political corruption, has claimed its first victim. The cabinet of Iveta Radičová sacked Anna Bubeníková, a nominee of Radičová’s own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), from her job as head of the National Property Fund (FNM), the state privatisation agency, on January 11.
The Gorilla file, the authenticity of which has not yet been proved, states that Bubeníková served as a go-between for Jaroslav Haščák, co-owner of the Penta financial group, and the FNM, where she also worked in 2005.
Bubeníková said after her dismissal on January 11 that the claims contained in the Gorilla file, which includes information about the alleged influence of the Penta financial group over senior Slovak politicians, were “absolutely untrue and made-up”. Prime Minister Radičová, however, said the doubts that had emerged justified her sacking.
“The material points at the possibility that politicians are totally ruled by businesses and financial interests,” Radičová told a press conference.
“It is not my duty to investigate the authenticity of this material but there are doubts and these serve as a reason for such a decision,” she said.
Ministers from the governing parties Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Most-Híd, as well as Radičová herself, voted for Bubeníková’s dismissal.
Senior SDKÚ members had earlier expressed support for Bubeníková, with SDKÚ-nominated Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš stating on January 10 that Bubeníková still had his trust.
SDKÚ leader Mikuláš Dzurinda called the sacking “pure politics ahead of the parliamentary elections”, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that “our coalition partners evaluated that it is advantageous for them”. A general election will take place in Slovakia on March 10. Dzurinda did not comment on Radičová’s decision to endorse Bubeníková’s dismissal.
Radičová went on to say that the cabinet, at its meeting on January 11, did not discuss a specific person but rather the message that the possible interlinking suggested by the Gorilla file would be catastrophic for Slovakia. The prime minister added that other politicians mentioned in the Gorilla file should also consider leaving politics.
Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic (KDH) said that with suspicions as serious as those that had emerged in Bubeníková’s case, such a person could not remain in such a high state position.
Ministers, however, are not commenting on whether they believe the Gorilla file is authentic and say the cabinet does not have the authority to investigate it, according to SITA.
Economy Minister Juraj Miškov, a nominee of SaS, had requested that Radičová sack Bubeníková, arguing that the Gorilla file contained serious suspicions about the SDKÚ nominee and that she was one of the three main figures in what he called a “novel or TV series”.
The blame game
Earlier in the week, Bubeníková lashed out at Miškov, claiming among other things that he had acted against Slovakia’s interests by pushing for the sale of the 49-percent share of gas utility Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) currently owned by foreign investors to the company Energetický a Prumyslový Holding without seeking the consent of the cabinet or informing other ministers about it, SITA reported.
Miškov responded that his ministry had never advocated the direct sale of the 49-percent share of SPP owned by foreign investors to a single buyer, especially not without the consent of the cabinet.
“On the contrary, the Economy Ministry had an analysis elaborated which confirmed that for such a transaction the consent of the cabinet was needed in the same way as the decision on the pre-emptive right,” Miškov wrote in a document published by the Sme daily.
Miškov also denied that his proposal to sack Bubeníková was in revenge for what she called the minister’s efforts to manage the privatisation on his own, without the involvement of the FNM.
Police president: ‘It could have worked that way’
Originally, ministers for Most-Híd had said they did not intend to vote for Bubeníková’s sacking, but at the January 11 cabinet meeting they changed their minds. According to Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon, the party took into account further information tabled at the session. Simon also told SITA that it was a political decision.
Party chairman Béla Bugár referred to an interview with Police President Jaroslav Spišiak published in the Sme daily the same day in which Spišiak suggested that things could have happened in the way they are described in the Gorilla file.
“Considering the fact that I know the situation quite intimately, because from 2001 I was the first vice-president of the [Police] Corps, it is possible to say that those developments could have happened in the way they are described,” Spišiak said in an interview with Sme published on January 11.
Meanwhile, Lipšic confirmed that the specialised police team established by the Interior Ministry to investigate the circumstances of the Gorilla file had asked the Slovak Information Service (SIS), the intelligence agency that allegedly prepared it, for its cooperation, SITA reported.
The police team, based at the Office for the Fight Against Organised Crime, includes 10 top investigators from the office itself but also from the Office for the Fight Against Corruption and the inspection unit of the Interior Ministry.
Watchdog calls for probe
“The file must be responsibly investigated,” Zuzana Wienk, director of political ethics watchdog Fair-Play Alliance, told The Slovak Spectator. “It includes very serious claims, which thanks to [the file’s] publication have already affected and influenced people’s opinions.”
According to Wienk, the available information suggests that the prosecution bodies and the intelligence service had failed. She said that information reported in the media shows that they instead resisted attempts to deal with the revelations.
“It is very bad news for the country, because it implies that the basic bodies [supposed] to protect the law and the state do not work,” Wienk said. “In this case the media and public opinion obviously have to exert pressure and call for change.”
However, Wienk also added that at this stage the file should be handled carefully: “I do not know who published it and what motive that person had, or whether the file has been tampered with. We would need independent investigation, which in this country you cannot count on.”
The lengthy document comprises transcripts of apparently wiretapped conversations which imply corruption in senior state posts during the second Dzurinda government, in connection with the Penta financial group. It features the name of Jaroslav Haščák, Penta’s co-owner, and purported conversations and connections between him and ruling coalition politicians from the period, including former economy minister Jirko Malchárek, a nominee of the now-defunct New Citizens’ Alliance (ANO), plus some members of the Smer opposition party, Sme wrote.
Haščák, according to the document, discussed with Smer leader Robert Fico “cleaning processes” within the party which removed Fedor Flašík, the husband of current MEP Monika Flašíkova-Beňová – both of whom were, in 2005-2006, key figures in Smer – and possible post-election arrangements following the 2006 election, the TASR newswire reported.
However, Penta spokesman Martin Danko said on December 21 that the alleged wiretap transcripts that are circulating on the internet and have been sent to some media outlets are not true, TASR reported.