When General Prosecutor Jaromír Čižnár was reading the report about his office’s activities in July 2015 in front of members of parliament, he suddenly stopped. He reached the part about the work of the Special Prosecutor's office led by Dušan Kováčik which was poor, according to Čižnár.
“Sadly, Special Prosecutor [Kováčik] wrote it and I claim that he is responsible for it,” Čižnár told MPs. “To some extent, it is a dishonour to the people who are working at this prosecutor's office.”
Čižnár went on to say that the Special Prosecutor's office has poor results in investigating corruption, but Kováčik fails to explain the reasons for this.
The opposition, anti-corruption NGOs and others have been criticising Kováčik since he assumed the post in 2009 for halting investigations of the most sensitive cases in Slovakia.
“He stopped criminal prosecutions in cases which seemed to me that they could be successfully finished,” former interior minister Vladimír Palko told the Sme daily.
In early 2017, the Denník N daily showed the scale of his practice by revealing that Kováčik has not submitted any criminal lawsuits in the 61 cases he has been supervising over the past eight years in the post, despite the fact that he chairs an important body that should fight corruption and other serious crimes.
Kováčik has been in the office since 2004 and submitted 12 criminal lawsuits between 2004 and 2008, according to the Týždeň weekly.
“I have to have proofs that I can show,” Kováčik responded to criticism during a debate of the private broadcaster TA3. “Just to know is enough for a journalist.”
Statistics concerning 61 cases published by media are deceiving. Charges were pressed in only 16 cases, therefore, criminal lawsuits could be submitted only in these 16 cases. The prosecutor can file a lawsuit only if the results of the investigation give him a sufficient reason to bring the accused person to court, according to Kováčik.
He added that four of those cases are still active and a criminal lawsuit will likely be submitted.
However, even if charges were not pressed in the remaining 45 cases, it does not mean that Kováčik could not work on them. In such cases the prosecutor may decide whether criminal prosecution is launched or a specific person is charged, according to Denník N daily.
To compare, prosecutors who deal with corruption file 30 criminal lawsuits per year. Even those who deal with complicated economic cases file at least lawsuits yearly. Prosecutors who investigate organised criminal groups file about two criminal complaints per year, according to aktuality.sk news website.
When it comes to organised crime, economic criminality or corruption by people who are not part of top political structures, the special prosecutor's office is not ineffective, according to Stop Corruption NGO.
“The problem is that cases involving constitutional officials and political party representatives are not investigated and punished,” reads the Stop Corruption statement. “This is heavily related to the fact that prosecutor Dušan Kováčik has been head of the special prosecutor's office since it was created.”
Another issue is that Kováčik has the power to assign cases to himself and thus can decide which cases he will supervise. He can also remain in the office for three terms which should be reduced to just one term, according to former prosecutor Eva Mišíková.
Also, the Prosectuor General’s Office opines that a special prosecutor should manage the office, and not allocate criminal files to himself.
It began with Bašternák
Media recently checked Kováčik’s work after an anonymous group of people claiming to be police officers filed a criminal complaint against him for his investigation of the Bašternák case in September 2016.
One of the biggest now-ruling Smer scandals started after the assistant of opposition MP, Jozef Rajtár of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), Filip Rybanič, took documents from the Tatra Banka bank in mid-2016 which show that a sum of €260,000 was transferred to Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák’s (Smer) account from the B.A. Haus company. Similar payments were also made to the account of former transport minister Ján Počiatek (Smer) who left politics in mid-April.
The firm was operated by tycoon Ladislav Bašternák who has been suspected of tax fraud involving VAT refunds since October 2013. The police investigator who is basically Kaliňák’s employee, however, refused the criminal complaint against Bašternák without even checking into it.
In its press release, the anonymous group asked how it is possible that Kováčik bears no responsibility for stopping the investigation of the case. They also pointed out that he has not filed a criminal complaint since 2008, which turns out to be true.
“Oh come on, I will not respond to this,” Kováčik responded when journalists asked him about the criminal complaint in September 2016.
Later, in a TA3 debate, he explained that he approved halting of the investigation because a tax inspection revealed that Bašternák received VAT refunds lawfully. He, however, did not explain why he ignored the suspicions of the Financial Administration’s criminal office which questioned the results of the tax inspection, according to Denník N.
Top scandals without results
Besides Bašternák’s case, Kováčik has stopped some of the most serious scandals in Slovak history. For example, he halted the investigation into the case of Smer party funding. The case involves an audio recording dating back to the election campaign before the 2002 parliamentary elections featuring a voice deemed to be similar to PM Robert Fico boasting about securing 75 million Slovak crowns (almost €2,5 million) for the party.
Media have not disclosed the source of the recording. However, it is probable that it was one of Smer’s founders Bohumil Hanzel, who refused to testify. Kováčik then explained the reasons why he has not finished the investigation in the case.
However, he could launch a criminal prosecution and send the recording to experts for analysis of its authenticity. Therefore, the public could know if it really was the voice of the prime minister, according to Denník N.
The investigator correctly decided not to do so, according to Kováčik.
“She evaluated it in accordance with the law stating that even if a criminal prosecution was launched, it would be statute barred,” Kováčik said during the debate, adding that this was a criminal act with statute-barred period of five years.
Regarding Smer funding, Kováčik also stopped the investigation of an alleged 2002 contract between Smer and now deceased businessman Lubomír Blaško, published by the Sme daily. Both sides agreed that Smer would place Blaško’s people in state firms after the elections and Blaško would pay 32 million Slovak crowns (€1.06 million). There were signs of Fico and then-Smer campaign manager Fedor Flašík.
Kováčik stopped the investigation after both of them denied their involvement. He did not even need an expert analysis of those signs, Sme wrote.
Kováčik also dealt with the leaked Gorilla file which started one of the most serious corruption cases in Slovak history. A document which purports to describe conversations covertly recorded by the country’s SIS intelligence service between 2005 and 2006 which suggest that corrupt links may have existed between senior politicians, government officials and business people.
Then-Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic of Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) created a special team under Kováčik’s supervision. The investigation has brought no significant results so far.
When investigators wanted to interrogate the alleged author of the file Peter Holúbek, who could officially confirm authenticity of the file, Kováčik blocked it. When explaining his decision he stated that the goal of the investigation is not to reveal the author of the file, but to find out whether the events described in the file really took place.
“The way he approaches Gorilla and many other politically sensitive cases shows that Dušan Kováčik truly wears a red tie [Smer trademark] and sadly, we will have to deal with it,” journalist Marek Vagovič investigating Smer’s founding said in a 2015 debate of private broadcaster Radio Expres.