The National Criminal Agency (NAKA) detained Vladimír Pčolinský, director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency, due to corruption suspicions, the Denník N daily reported.
Pčolinský was nominated by the coalition Sme Rodina party, and appointed by President Zuzana Čaputová in April 2020.
SIS will now be temporarily led by his deputy, Milan Pudelka.
Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO) did not want to comment on the case.
President Zuzana Čaputová suspended him temporarily from the position.
“She decided to do so because the act was allegedly committed in direct connection with the performance of the function of Director of the SIS. His continued service would be unacceptable under these circumstances," the presidential office wrote in the statement.
Pčolinský says he is innocent. His attorney Eva Mišíková said after the interrogation that if his arguments are supported by proof, his innocence should be proven.
Taking bribes from Kollár
Pčolinský is suspected of taking a bribe from Zoroslav Kollár, detained during the Víchrica (Gale) operation, for stopping the SIS investigation into his person. Kollár faces charges related to the corruption of judges. Although the Specialised Criminal Court released him from custody, he is still behind bars as the decision has been appealed. The Supreme Court will have final say.
One of the people talking about Pčolinský taking a bribe is his former deputy Boris Beňa, who reportedly gave him the money, according to investigators. Beňa was arrested for corruption a few months ago, but started cooperating with the police. He is still in custody, Denník N wrote.
Kollár has been charged in the case, the TVnoviny.sk website reported. He is said to have given a €40,000 bribe, divided between Pčolinský and his former deputy, Boris Beňa.
First KDH, then Sme Rodina
For years, Pčolinský was linked to the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and worked closely with Daniel Lipšic, now serving as special prosecutor. Pčolinský even joined the new Nova party established by Lipšic.
The two parted ways in 2016, when Pčolinský joined forces with Boris Kollár, who at the time started to build Sme Rodina. He is not a member of the party, though. His brother Peter now chairs the parliamentary caucus of Sme Rodina, while his wife Adriana serves as a Sme Rodina MP, Denník N wrote.
Kollár’s party, which won the third-highest number of votes in the 2020 general election, wanted some “enforcement department”. Since the election winner OĽaNO wanted both the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry, Sme Rodina eventually ended up with SIS.
Pčolinský wanted to open SIS more to the public, and was the first intelligence service director to give interviews to the media that were quite open, according to Denník N.
The name of Vladimír Pčolinský has been mentioned in several cases.
For example, he took the photo of the meeting between Marian Kočner, charged with the murder of journalist and other economic crimes, Peter Tóth, his former friend and witness in the murder case, and Zuzana Tománková Miková, then-head of the Čistý Deň (Clean Day) resocialisation centre, which has meanwhile lost its licence following several scandals.
He said that it was a coincidence, and that he wanted to take a picture of Tóth, the Sme daily reported.
Tóth has repeatedly said that Pčolinský was leaking information from the file about the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová to the media. He has denied the claim and said that he has no access to such information.
Kočner’s communication via the Threema app showed that the mobster considered Pčolinský an enemy and suspected him of being behind several cases that had hurt his allies, such as Pavol Rusko and Jaroslav Haščák.
Non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia called the nomination nepotism.
“Taking such important positions by family members based only on political agreements is the worst possible practice,” they commented on Facebook.