THE PARLIAMENTARY conflict of interest committee will not press Supreme Court President and former justice minister Štefan Harabin for more information on the generous discount he received when purchasing his new home at the high-end Octopus housing development. Head of the committee Miroslav Beblavý filed a motion with the committee against Harabin over what he called a suspicion of violating the conflict of interest legislation when purchasing his apartment with a 40+ percent or €74,000 discount as well as the rental of a parking place for Harabin’s official car.
“Such an unusual discount in case of such a high constitutional representative evokes questions about whether there was any other counter-value involved and what it was,” Beblavý said as quoted by SITA newswire.
Nevertheless, members of the committee from Smer on August 1 blocked any further proceeding over the case, with Beblavý calling it a historical precedent since so far the committee at least allowed scrutinizing of the reported cases. The committee will therefore neither deal with Harabin’s apartment nor with the partking spot at the building where the apartment is located, which is rented for Harabin’s official car and is being paid for by the Supreme Court, according to daily Sme.
The economic Hospodárske Noviny daily broke the story on Harabin paying roughly €95,000 including VAT for a 100-square-metre apartment, which had its market price at €170,000. Harabin called the published information misleading and denied taking any unjustified advantages. He also argued that at the time of purchasing the apartment he had not yet been appointed minister, thus in his opinion the conflict of interest committee should not deal with the issue, according to daily Sme.
Harabin also said that he delivered all the members of the conflict of interest committee evidence, which according to him, points at what he called lies by parliamentary deputy Beblavý about the purchase of his apartment.
“With transparency and openness I sent the deputies the evidence which eliminates any speculation,” said Harabin as quoted by SITA, adding that his property declarations have been available on the internet for years.
Harabin, who sent a copy of his contract, which set the conditions of the purchase of the apartment at Záhradnícka Street, also seeks an apology from Beblavý. Harabin signed the contract on the purchase of the apartment together with his wife on June 19, 2006 and since due to time constraints he did not have the permission of the other contracting party to publish their identity, he said he had to make those parts anonymous, but only in those parts where their rights could have been violated, SITA newswire reported. He also attached a confirmation noting that since its establishment, the company in question has not been involved in any past or pending trials at the Supreme Court.
Smer deputy Otto Brixi, who serves as deputy chairman of the conflict of interest committee, said on July 24 he believes that the case of the purchase of Harabin’s apartment was sufficiently explained, opining that the whole case is “a sort of political gesture by Mr. Beblavý”.
Yet, Beblavý does not believe that the committee had reason to sweep Harabin’s case under the carpet, adding that the Supreme Court president might be crying over the wrong grave.
“We as a committee can clear or punish him only if we are able to legally find out whether or not he violated the law,” said Beblavý on August 1 as quoted by SITA, adding that for doing so the committee needs the original document at least so that the authenticity can be verified by an expert.
Beblavý indeed questioned the authenticity of the document, suggesting that it listed the new headquarters of the developer firm, at the location it moved to after Harabin had already served as justice minister, Sme reported.