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A ROUND–UP OF THE TOP STORIES OF 2012

Gorilla

The word ‘Gorilla’ has, since an eponymous leaked file came to light in late December 2011, become a byword in Slovakia for suspicions of widespread political corruption and domestic spying. The Gorilla file, a lengthy document that purports to describe an operation conducted by the Slovak Information Service (SIS), the country’s main intelligence agency, which collected information about the influence of the Penta financial group on senior Slovak politicians between 2005 and 2006, emerged via Slovak media outlets and became the single most resonant issue in Slovakia’s pre-election discourse. Gorilla spilled from newspapers, talk shows and discussion threads onto social networking sites and into the streets.

Gorilla protests filled the streets early in the year.(Source: SME)

The word ‘Gorilla’ has, since an eponymous leaked file came to light in late December 2011, become a byword in Slovakia for suspicions of widespread political corruption and domestic spying. The Gorilla file, a lengthy document that purports to describe an operation conducted by the Slovak Information Service (SIS), the country’s main intelligence agency, which collected information about the influence of the Penta financial group on senior Slovak politicians between 2005 and 2006, emerged via Slovak media outlets and became the single most resonant issue in Slovakia’s pre-election discourse. Gorilla spilled from newspapers, talk shows and discussion threads onto social networking sites and into the streets.

The first rally took place in Bratislava on January 27, and was attended by about 1,000 people. The second rally in Bratislava on February 3 marked a peak, drawing around 10,000, with around 2,000 people protesting in Košice and 1,200 in Poprad. The protesters mostly called for the immediate withdrawal of people indicated in the Gorilla file from public life. Due to later low turnouts the organisers announced they were shifting from the streets to round-tables to discuss their demands, such as changes to rules on referendums or the dismissal of Štefan Harabin as president of the Supreme Court.

The Office of the General Prosecutor on January 2 created a special team to look into the Gorilla file, and several politicians called for a thorough investigation of the allegations contained in it. The document appeared on the internet and was e-mailed to several media outlets just weeks before parliamentary elections, which took place in Slovakia on March 10.

The Gorilla file 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), Anna Bubeníková, a senior official at the National Property Fund (FNM) privatisation agency, plus members of Smer (then in opposition) including Robert Fico, Sme wrote.

The cabinet of Iveta Radičová sacked Bubeníková from her job as head of the FNM on January 11. The Gorilla file suggested that Bubeníková had served as a go-between for Haščák and the FNM, where she also worked in 2005. Bubeníková denied the claims contained in the file.

“The material points at the possibility that politicians are totally ruled by businesses and financial interests,” Radičová responded to the file in January, and along with three then governing parties, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Most-Híd, she voted for Bubeníková’s dismissal, even though senior members of her own Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) had earlier expressed support for Bubeníková.

Penta dismissed the published material as untrue and said the group would seek legal protection from what its spokesperson Martin Danko called damage caused to the company.

In February, the Bratislava I District Court, based on a complaint submitted by Haščák, issued a preliminary injunction to block the publication of a still unfinished book based on the Gorilla file being written by investigative journalist Tom Nicholson. Nevertheless, the widely-criticised court decision proved relatively short-lived as the Bratislava Regional Court on June 11 overturned the temporary restraining order, which at least one media freedom watchdog had by then described as censorship.

In late September, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák delivered a two-page report on the current status of the investigation of the Gorilla file to parliament, suggesting that “many parts of the mosaic have been put together, many new facts have emerged” and that investigators have already put together 60,000 pages of documents related to the case and heard more than 50 witnesses. Despite that, Kaliňák said, the evidence was still insufficient to allow charges to be brought against anyone specific. The opposition criticised the investigation, expressing scepticism that the case would be resolved under Robert Fico’s government.

On September 18, the non-governmental groups Transparency International Slovensko (TIS), the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms (INEKO) and the Slovak Governance Institute (SGI) called on the six parliamentary political parties to fulfil their public pledges, declared prior to the March 2012 election in the wake of several party financing scandals and the Gorilla case, and “propose and pass an effective law that would increase the control and transparency of political parties’ financing in Slovakia”.

Another top stories of 2012
Gorilla heralds change at the top
Opposition
Mistrust in judiciary prevails
Troubled prosecution
Minorities

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