The first culprits have been charged in the case of alleged corruption in the reconstruction of the biathlon field in Osrblie for the 2012 Open European Championships Biathlon, and they include the Prime Minister’s former external adviser Martin Novotny.
Novotny was not available for comment till now because he was on holiday in the US, but on his return yesterday he came in for questioning and was charged with corruption. His associate, former ambassador to Kenya, Igor Líška, is already in custody as he was the one in Novotny’s company who was caught red-handed accepting a commission bribe for arranging the state funding.
At a press conference yesterday, attended also by PM Iveta Radicova, minister Lipsic admitted that there could be more people involved in the corruption case, which saw the company Knazik win the tender thanks to commission being paid to sway the allocation on state funding.
The company Knazik is owned by Peter Knazik, who is also among the accused, while even the Slovak Biathlon Association is under suspicion of subvention fraud. The association members deny having anything to do with the corruption case, but Lipsic says they are definitely not guilt-free, arguing that over EUR 150,000 was used by the association to pay off backdated invoices of Knazik. The heads of the association will give additional testimonies to the fraud squad today.
Naturally, opposition leader Robert Fico has jumped on the latest affair as a chance to accuse the PM of corruption, calling her an incompetent liar and a suspect in the affair, as it was taking place right under her nose. He therefore wants her to assume political responsibility for the whole affair.
After slurring the PM as best as he could, Fico claimed that if something like this had happened under his government, tougher action would have been taken. An interesting statement, indeed. He claims that because money was allocated directly from the PM’s Reserve Fund, this proves that it was her personal decision and that she knew where the money would end up.
PM Radicova was enraged by Fico’s statements and accusations, calling it one-man hysteria, while pointing out also that the decision to construct the Osrblie venue at all was taken in 2008 under his government, when it spent EUR 1.2 million on the project.
Radicova cynically praised the quality of Fico’s dramatic performance before pointing out that the biggest case of alleged corruption surrounding a PM was when an incriminating recording on dubious party financing and allegedly containing Fico’s voice was released just before the elections.
Radicova concluded that her government was doing its best to eradicate corruption, but that they did not have their head in the clouds and so accept that it will never be banished altogether from Slovakia. Hard to disagree with that insight. Radicova and the government are hoping to save the European Championships at Osrblie to prevent another fiasco like the cancellation of the Deaflympic Games earlier this year.