On February 25, 2018, Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kušnírová were found shot to death in his house in Velká Mača, some 50 kilometers from capital Bratislava, Slovakia, local media reported.
Police chief Tibor Gašpar said that the murders were "most likely" linked to the work of the journalist, Reuters reported.
Kuciak worked for the news website Aktuality.sk, where he investigated tax fraud associated with individuals close to the ruling social democratic party Smer, according to Reuters.
Before his death, Kuciak had worked with the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Aktuality.sk on an investigation into an Italian mafia group, ‘Ndragheta, and their incursions into Slovakia, the OCCRP said in a statement.
At the time of his death, the journalist was collecting records on men considered by Italian police to be extremely dangerous, the OCCRP stated. The OCCRP has since published the uncompleted version of Kuciak’s article, which alleged embezzlement of EU funds.
Police in Slovakia said March 1 that they had detained seven people in connection with the murder, but released all of them March 3 without being charged, Reuters reported.
Separately, the journalist’s last story for Aktuality.sk, on February 9, looked at suspected tax fraud linked to a luxury apartment complex in Bratislava, Reuters reported. Kuciak had previously reported to police that he had received threats last year from Marian Kocner, a businessperson about whom Kuciak had written, according to The Associated Press. “It has been 44 days since I filed a criminal complaint…for the threats. And the case probably does not even have a particular cop,” the journalist wrote on his Facebook page in October 2017, according to the Guardian.
Kocner previously stated he would set up a website publishing information on the private lives of journalists reporting on the alleged tax fraud case against him, the newspaper reported. Slovakia’s National Criminal Agency (NAKA) has since dropped the fraud case. Kocner did not immediately comment on Kuciak and Kušnířova’s murders, the Guardian stated.
Slovak police on September 28, 2018, charged three people with the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová, according to reports. The unnamed suspects were among eight people arrested in a raid the day before, according to reports. The other five were released, according to a prosecutor cited in news reports.
The state prosecutor in Bratislava announced on September 30, 2018, that the court charged a fourth person with participating in the murders, and ordered all four suspects jailed until their trial, Reuters reported.
Citing local media, the OCCRP reported October 1 that among the detainees was a woman, identified by the police by her initials, A.Zs., who allegedly ordered the murder and paid 70,000 euros (US$80,000) for the hit. Slovak media also reported that the woman is allegedly connected to Kocner, according to the OCCRP.
Kuciak was the first journalist killed in relation to his work in Slovakia.