Sme: Military intelligence officers allegedly involved in major theft

THE SLOVAK military’s spooks are facing yet another scandal. After a 2011 leak of information about the bugging of journalists which resulted in the dismissal of then defence minister Ľubomír Galko, the media have broken another story concerning leaked intelligence documents.

THE SLOVAK military’s spooks are facing yet another scandal. After a 2011 leak of information about the bugging of journalists which resulted in the dismissal of then defence minister Ľubomír Galko, the media have broken another story concerning leaked intelligence documents.

The Sme daily on May 16 published details from a 134-page report which alleges large-scale embezzlement of public funds by employees at the former Military Intelligence Service (VSS) during the first government of Robert Fico (2006-2010). The daily says it received the document anonymously, and that it is probably based on an internal investigation into the VSS that started under Galko.

The report includes information about the purchase and reconstruction of an expensive residential property in Bratislava which the state sold at a loss to a former VSS officer. Both of the then heads of the two military intelligence agencies – Juraj Šebo of the VSS and Ľubomír Skuhra of the Military Defence Intelligence (VOS) counterintelligence agency – allegedly knew about the transactions. The VSS and VOS have since been merged.

Both men returned to government service after Smer took office in spring 2012. While Skuhra now leads the merged Military Intelligence (VS), Šebo serves as military attaché to Slovakia’s embassy to China, Sme wrote.

While Jaroslav Baška, the Smer nominee who was defence minister at the time the events in the report are alleged to have happened, says he did not know about the existence of the report, Galko, former prime minister Iveta Radičová and former interior minister Daniel Lipšic confirmed that it did. However, they refused to confirm whether the document now possessed by Sme is the actual report, saying such information is confidential.

Current Defence Minister Martin Glváč dismissed the story as just “a media game”, Sme wrote. At a press conference held on May 16 he said that the leaked file had nothing to do with the current management of the ministry.

He also said that he had not seen the document currently in Sme’s possession, the SITA newswire wrote.

Skuhra responded that the possible leak of the documents from the military service might bring some risks and result in damage affecting the “lives and health of the people who deal with the intelligence services”, as reported by SITA. He also denied any misuse of public funds by the military intelligence agencies.

The report

The document now in Sme’s possession describes the apparently unlawful transfer of VSS assets to other organisations or private persons that were reportedly linked to those who led the military VSS at the time. The state reportedly lost millions of euros in the transactions described.

The reported wrongdoing in most cases involved intelligence officers authorising the purchase of assets, ordering their reconstruction using public funds and then having them classified as redundant, allowing them to be sold on to well-connected buyers at below-market prices, Sme reported.

The prosecutor’s office was supposed to investigate the case from March 2012, when it received an initial allegation. However, when Sme asked it about the investigation on May 13,2013 the Bratislava Regional Prosecutor’s Office said it could not locate the relevant file, Sme wrote.

“I did not have any information that something like this was happening,” Baška told Sme, adding that Šebo was appointed by his predecessor, Smer nominee František Kašícký.

Baška said that at the time he did not deal with any complaints about the VSS, nor did he have any information about unethical deals involving VSS property.

Inquiries get nowhere

Since the information included in the document might be confidential, Sme gave it to Martin Fedor, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) MP who chairs the parliamentary committee responsible for overseeing the activities of the VS, as well as special prosecutor.

Fedor said on May 16 that the special prosecutor will have to check whether the published documents are authentic.

“If the documents are authentic, they are copies of confidential information,” Fedor said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “It cannot please me that they are available to unauthorised people.”

If the documents are found to be authentic, there is also a problem with a huge leak of confidential information, Fedor added.

“One thing is content, the other the leak of confidential information,” Fedor told TASR. “Alongside the criminal investigation there has to be one serious debate about how we will continue. It is unacceptable and it is a mess that piles of material are just laying on the pavement. In one case wiretaps; in another, internal documents.”

Fedor also summoned a session of his committee, and planned to arrange a discussion with Glváč as well as Skuhra, which was due to take place on May 17, TASR wrote.

The committee does not intend to ask the Office of the General Prosecutor to say what it has already done in investigation of this case.

“I want to know whether the law was violated, which has to be investigated by the prosecutor’s office and the police,” Fedor said, adding that during the past two years there have been two big scandals at the VS, but nothing has been investigated yet. “It cannot stay like this. The functionaries either made a mistake or not. This [the VS] should be an important body in the security of the state and its citizens.”

According to political scientist Miroslav Kusý, the investigation of the whole case might end up like the one into the so-called Gorilla file, a previously leaked intelligence document purporting to describe allegedly corrupt behaviour by high-level politicians during 2005-06, SITA wrote.

Kusý is also convinced that the case will not raise a big response among the public, since in Slovakia people have become “desensitised” to such things.

“Of course it is scandalous, and it should be strictly investigated,” the Kusý told SITA, adding that this case confirms the need for better control of the VS. “It is necessary to have controls, even double controls, but we lack even the basic one – and there is not even an appointed chair of the Supreme Audit Office.”

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