ANNA Bubeníková was sacked from her top job at the National Property Fund (FNM), Slovakia’s state privatisation agency in January this year. While she was never formally convicted of any wrongdoing, her name featured heavily in the so-called Gorilla file, an unverified document purporting to describe an operation conducted by the country’s SIS intelligence agency between 2005 and 2006 into suspicions of high-ranking political corruption. However, Bubeníková’s removal did not end her career in the public sphere: it has now emerged that the former head of the executive board of the FNM still works as an adviser on privatisation to the Greek government. But more than a year after she was nominated to the European-level advisory body, the Slovak Finance Ministry is now trying to have her removed from that post too.
“The reasons are doubts about the ethical level of this nomination, which evokes the distrust of the public,” read the official statement of the Ministry of Finance from August 6, pointing out that the previous government sacked Bubeníková from the FNM for the same reasons.
Ivan Mikloš of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), who served as finance minister from 2010 until earlier this year, recommended Bubeníková through Slovakia’s then representative to the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers Martin Bruncko in July 2011, the ministry confirmed, adding that “that the nomination did not happen at the governmental or parliamentary level”.
The ministry has also said that it will request that the Eurogroup withdraws Bubeníková from the post, to which she was nominated before the scandal around the Gorilla file erupted on the Slovak political scene at the end of last year.
Members of the council of experts, an advisory body to the Greek Development Fund, must meet high professional and ethical standards, since these are crucial for fulfilling their tasks, said Andrej Králik of the European Commission representation to Slovakia, as quoted by the SITA newswire. However, he made no further comment on the possible fate of Bubeníková.
“Any implications pertaining to the current position of Mrs Bubeníková are at the moment entirely in the authority of her employer, which is the Greek Development Fund,” said Ingrid Ludvíková of the European Commission representation to Slovakia, as reported by the Pravda daily, adding that it is not up to the EC to comment on the developments.
The role of the Greek Development Fund, which Bubeníková advises, is to privatise Greek state assets including real estate, infrastructure and state-owned enterprises, and to attract foreign capital as part of efforts to revive the Greek economy. The advisory body was established by the EC and the European Central Bank, among others, SITA reported.
According to Pravda, Bubeníková is not being paid by the EC but from the budget of the Greek Development Fund.
Meanwhile, Alojz Hlina, an MP for the Slovak opposition party Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), took a copy of Gorilla, a recently published book by journalist Tom Nicholson, a former editor-in-chief of The Slovak Spectator, to the Greek Embassy in Slovakia. Hlina said he believes the book, which is about the eponymous file, contains several statements that could be of interest to Greece, adding that the Greeks should know about the alleged background of the person who is supposed to be helping them pay back their debts, the TASR newswire wrote.
Hlina on August 8 said he would also visit Athens next week with a billboard that he plans to display in front of the Greek Government Office, SITA reported.
The parliamentary committee on conflicts of interest will check Bubeníková’s property report from when she was in state employment to see whether she included all her income, including pay from her work in Greece, in accordance with the law, Pravda reported.
Bubeníková’s previous dismissal
The Gorilla file, whose authenticity remains unconfirmed, indicates 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 Penta’s alleged influence over senior Slovak politicians, were “absolutely untrue and made-up”.
Iveta Radičová, the prime minister when Bubeníková was sacked, said at the time that the doubts that had emerged justified her dismissal and that “the material points to the possibility that politicians are totally ruled by businesses and financial interests”.