PM Robert Fico claims that the audio recording allegedly proving that his Smer-SD party has been illegally financed is a complete fake, and is part of of a smear campaign against the party in the run-up to the elections. He therefore went to Prosecutor General, Dobroslav Trnka, yesterday afternoon to lodge a criminal complaint against the editor-in-chief of daily newspaper SME, which published the recording on its website.
“This is an attack on the Prime Minister, a serious attack on a top official using a counterfeit recording, which 48 hours ahead of the election has no other objective than to cause harm, at all costs, to a political party” said the PM in reaction to a voice recording that allegedly features Fico talking about the use of tens of millions of crowns in Smer’s election campaign outside the party’s official accounting.
The recording, which SME received two days ahead of the parliamentary elections, apparently proves that Smer laundered tens of millions of crowns it had received from ‘sponsors’. SME claims that in the 65-second recording Fico boasts about how he had managed to get SKK 75 million (€2.49 million) through his own effort.
In the recording, a voice resembling Fico’s says: “All I can say is that I got hold of, and I hope nobody’s listening, 35 for this year, some 40 for next year, plus some other things as well”. Officially, the party received just SKK 5 million (€165,000) or so in sponsor donations in 2001 and 2002.
PM Fico rejects the authenticity of the recording, saying “A recording like that could be created in three minutes”. “They either found someone to do it or they have tampered with some technical equipment. Not to mention the fact that you could put together a four and a half minute recording out of my speeches”. He also branded Lipsic as the single most obsessed politician in relation to the ruling coalition.
“I’ve submitted a criminal complaint because what the SME daily published today (Thursday) is a complete forgery and an attempt to discredit the Government, the Prime Minister and the Smer-SD party at any cost. It takes a lot of nerve to publish such a fake 48 hours ahead of the election,” said the Prime Minister.
Concerning a letter that has been distributed by the SDL (Democratic Left) and which allegedly features Fico’s signature, the Prime Minister noted that he would file a complaint both with the Central Election Commission (UVK) and the police. Thousands of copies of the letter have been distributed throughout Slovakia.
In response the PM pointed to the fact that Martin Lengyel is involved in the SDL party, and that he is one of former PM Dzurinda’s men. In his opinion, there is dirty money moving from SDKU to SDL to wage a campaign against Smer, whereby he vowed not to put up with having his signature forged.
The alleged dubious funding of the Smer party was first brought to light by businessman and former Smer-SD MP, Bohumil Hanzel, who said he had seen a notarised agreement between Smer and five party sponsors concerning specific places on Smer’s election list back in 2002 (Smer’s first campaign). Hanzel also claimed that he had arranged meetings in 2000-2002 between Fico and the sponsors of Smer and that he had evidence of how in late 1999 he and Fico had agreed to find influential people to finance the party.
The Prosecutor General has decided to proceed in examining the complaint, together with another initiated on 20 May by vice-chairman of the Christian Democrats (KDH), Daniel Lipsic, who has now also sent the supposedly incriminating recording to the Prosecutor General. The complaint filed by KDH concerned information published by former Smer-SD MP, Bohumil Hanzel that has casted a shadow of doubt of Smer-SD’s financing. The Prime Minister branded Lipsic as the single most obsessed politician in relation to the ruling coalition.
Trnka: I’ll demand the original recording first
“My first step will be to request the original of the recording from either daily SME or Mr. Lipsic,” Trnka told TASR.
He added that he wanted to send the recording to forensic experts in order to determine whether the voice on tape really belongs to Fico or not. “If either Lipsic or SME daily provide me with the recording, I’ll go ahead, but I need the original. All I have so far is an e-mail version from Mr. Lipsic,” said Trnka.
The Prosecutor General said that he would send the recording to forensic experts to examine whether the voice on tape really was that of Fico or not. If proven to be authentic, the current Prime Minister could face criminal charges with a possible hefty prison sentence.