News digest: NBS governor faces bribery charges, but refuses to step down

Opposition sees no reason for Peter Kažimír to leave. Marian Kočner's decoy sentenced for murder. Number of new Covid cases highest since March.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Wednesday, October 13, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia. We wish you a pleasant read.

NBS governor charged with bribery

Peter Kažimír, governor of the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS), the country’s central bank, and former finance minister under the Smer governments, has been charged with bribery.

The first to break the news was the website which received the information from several sources. It was later confirmed by other sources, including Kažimír’s lawyer.

The charges are reportedly linked to a bribe connected to the former head of the Financial Administration, František Imrecze, who confessed to several crimes earlier this year and has since cooperated with the police. In his testimony, Imrecze reportedly said Kažimír as a minister received a bribe of €150,000 to secure political support for the purchase of the e-Kasa IT system.

Kažimír insists that he is innocent.

“I have no information and I am not aware of breaching the law, and I have never had any interest in impacting any proceedings,” he stressed, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that the facts provided in the decision are untrue and the explanation lacks evidence.

Following the charges, several representatives of the ruling coalition and even President Zuzana Čaputová said that Kažimír should consider resigning from the post. Under the current rules, it is quite difficult to remove him from the post. The proposal to recall the NBS governor should be first submitted by the cabinet, and then be approved by the parliament. Only then can the president officially recall them. Moreover, there are specific conditions under which the governor can be dismissed.

Kažimír has no intention to resign, as he stressed in a recent statement for the media. Not even the opposition leaders Robert Fico and Peter Pellegrini see a reason for him to leave, both stressing the presumption of innocence. The former even alluded that the charges might have been laid because someone wants the NBS governor post.

Zsuzsová sentenced for murder

Alena Zsuzsová, who is often described as a decoy of mobster Marian Kočner, will spend 21 years in a maximum-security prison for the 2010 murder of ex-Hurbanovo mayor, Lázsló Basternák.

The verdict was issued by the Supreme Court on October 13 and is now valid. The court in fact confirmed an earlier decision of the Specialised Criminal Court.

Roman Ostružlík and Vladimír Mosnár were given the same sentence as Zsuzsová.

The defendants also have to pay €10,000 in compensation to Basternák’s bereaved.

Zsuzsová is facing charges in another two cases: the participation in the murder of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, and the preparation of the murders of Daniel Lipšic (now special prosecutor), prosecutor Peter Šufliarsky, and Maroš Žilinka (currently serving as the general prosecutor).

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Coronavirus and vaccination developments

  • 2,406 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 13,927 PCR tests performed on October 12. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 877. 20 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 44.98 percent; 2,473,996 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The Delta variant was dominant in 100 percent of all samples sequenced last week, the Health Ministry informed.
  • The pandemic has accelerated the spread of hateful speech and extremist propaganda, the Interior Ministry said. It called the conspiracy theories inciting violence one of the biggest threats the country is currently facing.

Travel information

Cyprus will classify Slovakia as a red country from Thursday, October 14. This means that unvaccinated incomers will have to present a negative Covid test when entering the country. It will be possible to get tested right after arriving at the airport.

Picture of the day

Kip Thorne, a laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physics who is currently visiting Slovakia, received a golden medal from Comenius University in Bratislava for his contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.

Feature story for today

The main attributes of private flights used to be luxury and flexibility, but the pandemic has changed this. The outbreak of Covid-19 and the implementation of anti-pandemic measures curbed regular air transport, creating more opportunities for private flights. People often choose private jets to avoid contact with other passengers or to fly to business destinations that have become difficult to access.

Private flights more popular since pandemic Read more 

In other news

  • The International Monetary Fund revised its forecast of Slovakia’s economic growth for this year downward, from 4.7 percent predicted in the spring to the current 4.4 percent. The next year should be better than originally predicted, though, with the economy rising at 5.2 percent (compared with the forecast of 4.4 percent in the spring).
  • Slovakia has received nearly €823 million from the EU recovery plan. The money will be used for renewable and digital solutions for companies, education and health care.
  • The members of the Economic and Social Council failed to make a deal on the draft state budget for 2022, as several members had objections. The draft will be discussed by the cabinet tomorrow and has to be submitted to the parliament by Friday.
  • About 100 judges and court employees protested in front of the Justice Ministry building on Wednesday against the reform of the court map. The protests were held in other towns and cities across the country, including Košice, Trenčín, Nitra, Kežmarok, Čadca, Námestovo, Ružomberok and Piešťany. The ministry is currently evaluating the objections to the draft map of courts submitted by regional and district courts. As Justice Minister Mária Kolíková said, the representatives of the courts were not interested in discussing potential compromises.
  • Roughly 120 trade unionists blocked the road in Banská Bystrica, protesting for better working conditions. The event, which was already held in Žilina last week, was organised by the KOVO trade unions association which objects to the increase in food prices and low salaries. The association wants the retirement age to be capped at 64 years too.

Also on today

Employers indicate acute lack of workers Read more 

Extinct fish can be your guide down the Danube Read more 

Many jets are exhibited in museums, but you can now see one near a railway station Read more 

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