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EDITORIAL

Old ghosts keep coming back

OLD scandals will continue to come back and haunt society until those responsible for the damage that the fraud, embezzlement and dubious deals caused are named, prosecuted and sent to prison. Many Slovaks would nevertheless readily comment that they live in a country where the larger the embezzlement of public funds, or the higher the damage suffered by the state due to non-transparent conduct, the less likely it is that those who unfairly benefited end up behind bars. The course that the ‘investigation’ of suspicions of large-scale embezzlement of public funds in the military intelligence service will probably take, much like numerous other inquiries into suspicions of corruption in Slovakia, will likely reinforce this belief.

OLD scandals will continue to come back and haunt society until those responsible for the damage that the fraud, embezzlement and dubious deals caused are named, prosecuted and sent to prison. Many Slovaks would nevertheless readily comment that they live in a country where the larger the embezzlement of public funds, or the higher the damage suffered by the state due to non-transparent conduct, the less likely it is that those who unfairly benefited end up behind bars. The course that the ‘investigation’ of suspicions of large-scale embezzlement of public funds in the military intelligence service will probably take, much like numerous other inquiries into suspicions of corruption in Slovakia, will likely reinforce this belief.

Sometimes one might experience déja vu when seeing the same political parties or their nominees, who, after one failing or two, have been kicked up to an even higher post, re-emerging in a different political set-up, but with essentially the same morals, or lack thereof.

Those who back in 2010 thought that they had seen the last of the amorphous Interblue Group and its infamous purchase of Slovakia’s carbon-dioxide emissions quotas, a deal in which Slovakia is believed to have lost tens of millions of euros, were wrong. The mysterious firm, which had been established just before the deal was sealed, and whose registered address was an unattended lock-up garage in the United States, is now back, insisting that Slovakia sell 20 million emission quotas based on a contract which the Slovak National Party (SNS) oversaw during its dubious rule at the Slovak Environment Ministry.

The deal from 2008, in which Slovakia sold quotas to emit 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to Interblue at €5.05 per tonne, resulted in the dismissal of at least two ministers, as well as the SNS losing its political influence over the ministry. Immediately after the deal Interblue sold the quotas for €8 or more per tonne, netting an instant profit of at least €45 million, with critics crying out that other countries, such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and even Ukraine, had obtained much higher prices for their national quotas. Yet, no one has been found guilty of anything close to mishandling of public funds, and apparently Slovakia’s politicians have done nothing to make sure that Interblue would not come back asking for more.

One could actually be tempted to say that Smer deserves to be forced to deal with the Interblue case, because if nothing else, the party is responsible for elevating the SNS to power and allowing its former leader Ján Slota and his buddies access to an entire playground full of procurements and public funds to play with.

It is true that the SNS is currently a long way from ruling the country, as the party failed to get into parliament in the last election, and its members have even sacked their boss, Slota, who was apparently setting the ‘standards’ for the SNS’ conduct, which resulted in deals like the one with Interblue, as well as one of the most notorious cases during the party’s rule with Robert Fico between 2006-10, the bulletin-board tender.

Yet, Slota’s name just recently emerged in association with his former personal assistant, Georges Gansé, who posted to a social networking site holiday photos featuring two top officials of Slovakia’s military intelligence, one of whom is currently Slovakia’s military attaché to China, posing during an apparent visit to Gansé’s home country of Benin in West Africa. Gansé then removed the photos after the Sme daily reported of their existence.

The military intelligence service has recently made headlines due to a file pertaining to suspicions of large-scale embezzlement during the first government of Fico. Defence Minister Martin Glváč called the file a “dangerous media hoax”, and Smer deputies sitting on the parliamentary committee to oversee the operation of military intelligence insisted on May 30 that the committee would no longer deal with the case. Though the committee is led by an opposition deputy, Smer has a majority in the body, with considerable influence over its operation.

Perhaps the suspicions of embezzlement will be added to the list of cases, which, for those responsible either “never happened”, or happened in a way in which “no laws have been violated”; or, if people were actually found to have violated the law, the courts said there was not enough evidence to put them behind bars. If that happens, it is more than certain that this ghost will one day return in some form or other.

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