Wave of arrests in Slovakia nets one of the country’s richest men

Billionaire Jaroslav Haščák is now in custody and more such high-profile arrests may be on the horizon

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Daniel Deme

It has been reported that on Tuesday one of Slovakia’s best known and most prominent businessmen, Jaroslav Haščák, has been taken into custody by a special police commando unit and spent his first night behind bars.
Haščák is the co-owner of Penta Investments, one of the largest investment firms in the region. His personal wealth is reported to be in the region of €1 billion. He has given up all his executive positions in Penta, yet he maintains his shares in the company, which is now led by British businessman Iain Child.
The Slovakian businessman is accused of money-laundering and paying bribes in connection to an almost 15-year-old corruption case named “Gorilla”. The case involved a voice recording that could incriminate high-ranking politicians, businessmen and police officers. Haščák is potentially facing as many as 20 years behind bars for buying the recording off a former member of Slovakia’s intelligence services (SIS), Ľubomír Arpáš, is alleged to have been paid almost €200,000 for the sensitive document. Arpáš’ wife, Dana, also a member of SIS, has also been implicated, and they are both facing corruption charges.
The enormous corruption case first came to light in 2011 when the entire recording was uploaded onto the internet by an unknown person. The story was quickly picked up by the media and caused a sensation among the Slovak public, yet until recently, no charges have been brought against any of the incriminated parties featured on the tape. The reason for this was, at least partly, that the investigation was led by Dušan Kováčik , head of Slovakia’s Office of Special Prosecutions, who is currently also behind bars awaiting his trial for corruption and assisting a criminal organization.
Since Kováčik’s removal from his office, a flood of arrests has ensued, reaching up to the highest echelons of Slovakian society. The investigation is currently led by Ondrej Repa, but the real initiator behind the prosecutions is thought to be Prime Minister Igor Matovič, who was elected into office in February this year on a strong anti-corruption platform.
With the arrest of Jaroslav Haščák, the case has received an international character as his company, Penta Investments, has significant business interests and owns firms across the region, including Germany, Czechia and Romania. Around 37,000 jobs are tied to the firm’s business empire across ten countries with assets totaling over €7 billion. Until recently, the firm co-owned the prestigious Czech military aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody before selling its share to Hungarian businessman András Tombor. Penta Investments also owns premium real estate in Prague’s booming historic Old Town, but has also managed to build a significant media empire in Slovakia.
Although the scandal has reached to the top of Slovakia’s business and police elite, no top ranking officials, either past and present, has so far faced any charges. Most observers, however, believe that if convictions follow the recent wave of arrests, it would only be a matter of time before some well-known members of the country’s political elite fall prey to the sprawling investigation. The names of former Slovak prime ministers have repeatedly popped up in connection with the scandal, but former Minister of Interior Robert Kaliňák has also been mentioned has having had contacts with some of the accused.
The alleged involvement of two former agents of the SIS is particularly embarrassing for Slovakia’s intelligence services as the agency has been struggling to repair its reputation after a number of damaging scandals. They have been unmasked as the makers of the secret voice recordings that had snowballed into the infamous ‘Gorilla’ scandal but there have been other incidents in the past when their agents have been misused for political intimidation.
Most infamous of these was perhaps the kidnapping of the son of Slovakia’s former president Michal Kováč in 1995, who was bundled into the trunk of a car and dumped in the Austrian border town of Hainburg. The head of SIS, Ivan Lexa, was convicted of organizing the action, but charges were later dropped. Legal proceedings against him are expected to resume in 2021.


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