All Slovak media are focusing today on the first anniversary of the murder of prominent lawyer Ernest Valko († 57), as very little progress has been made in the case, over which many questions still hang.
Valko was murdered at his home in the village of Limbach near Bratislava in the evening of 8 November, after being shot in the heart at point blank range. His murder sent a shockwave through Slovak society, not just because he was highly respected in his profession, but because of suspicions that his murder was probably linked to one of his cases.
At the time, security analyst Milan Rye pointed out how banditry used to settle disputes, usually seen in the Balkans and in Russia, is still a dark force present in modern-day Slovakia, and it is something that prevails even decades after the fall of communism.
There have been many speculations about who was behind the murder of Ernest Valko and what the motive was, but like many high-profile cases in Slovakia, the truth is often so well-buried in the quagmire of corruption that we might never know. His murder certainly did seem calculated and planned because Valko could smell acetate before his doorbell rang that fateful evening (acetate can put off sniffer dogs) and the single bullet to the heart points to the strong possibility that it was a professional killer who had come to visit him.
Valko was involved in large corporate cases where a lot of money is at stake, so it is hard to believe that money and greed had nothing to do with his death. One of the most suspect connections involved the state lottery company Tipos, especially because Valko was allegedly set to take over the case from Ludovit Krupa on behalf of the state versus the company Lemikon.
Just a few weeks after his death, the Supreme Court ruled that Tipos had previously illegally used the trademarks of former Czechoslovak betting company Sportka, which meant Tipos was supposed to cough up at least EUR 14 million for the Cyprus-based company Lemikon Limited, which took over the claim from Sportka in November 2008.
Lemikon was demanding EUR 66 million from Tipos and this amount is still unresolved, but with perfect timing yesterday the Constitutional Court overturned the ruling of the Supreme Court from last year, meaning the case goes back to step one and so gives Tipos a fighting chance, at least. Head of the Supreme Court, Stefan Harabin, could be disciplined over the ruling, because he violated the Constitution when he replaced 3 of the judges who ruled on the case.
A close friend of Valko who wished to remain anonymous, told Hospodarske noviny at the time that Valko had serious concerns about the case, with Valko himself referring to it as “a real dirty affair”.
For the past year police commissioner Jaroslav Spisiak and interior minister Daniel Lipsic have been reserved about revealing developments in the case, possible because there were none. They claimed to have 107 forensic pieces of evidence, but so far nothing of any substance has been disclosed.
In April this year, alleged underground boss from Bratislava, Juraj Ondrejcak (nicknamed Pito) requested to speak to interior minister Daniel Lipsic about Valko’s murder. The minister refused to speak to him, but he eventually gave some kind of testimony to the police, nonetheless. Ondrejcak claimed to have been friends with Valko and that he might be able to help crack the murder case.
In June this year Police found the murdered body of lawyer Roman Ozvold, who used to serve as head of the Supervisory Board in Tipos. He was shot five times in the back of his BMW. Possibly unrelated, but maybe not considering everything in the company had to go through the Supervisory Board. Maybe some of the information was ‘too sensitive’.
All mere speculations, though, as Valko was involved in other dubious cases, like the now infamous Ducky Bills (an unknown number of blank promissory notes signed by former puppet head of Slovak gas utility SPP). As cases sink deeper into the past, they become more difficult to resolve, and the murder of Ernest Valko seems to have become such a case, which will go down in Slovak history as suspect, to say the least.
For more articles on the case, click here