€4 million bank transfer from Malta at heart of Slovakia’s political storm

Slovak Attorney General calls on Maltese government to identify names involved in so-called ‘Gorilla’ affair.

The ‘Gorilla’ files revealed details about millions of euro in bribes paid to Slovak officials in former Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda’s coalition government.
The ‘Gorilla’ files revealed details about millions of euro in bribes paid to Slovak officials in former Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda’s coalition government.

A €4 million money transfer from a Maltese bank to a Slovak mafia-linked businessman has rocked Slovakia's political establishment, as the country's secret service uncovered meetings between bankers, businessmen and politicians, allegedly discussing privatisation deals.

The so far unnamed Maltese bank which effected the transfer has meanwhile been asked to provide local authorities with answers over its lack of due diligence, prompting the Slovak attorney-general's office to call on the Maltese government to provide names and account numbers of politicians, businessmen and details of companies connected to Bratislava's political establishment.

A report filed by the secret service and nicknamed the 'Gorilla' files revealed details about millions of euro in bribes paid to Slovak officials to win contracts or privatisation deals.

The files named ministers, foreign investors, a very powerful local investment fund (Penta) and the four parties in former Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda's coalition government including the governing SDKÚ-DS party.

Penta Banking Group has denied any wrongdoing, and Dzurinda - who until last week served as Slovakia's foreign minister - called the entire thing "a fake" while country's secret service engaged on an anti-corruption crusade which later boomeranged when it was revealed that the minister responsible for the agency had ordered the secret services to spy on a local journalist.

The so-called 'Gorilla' scandal led thousands of protesters to throw bananas at Bratislava's parliament during mass-protests earlier this year. Gorilla seriously damaged the credibility of all governing parties, especially Dzurinda's SDKÚ-DS party. Incumbent Prime Minister Iveta Radičová retired, and with her the party lost her reformist, anti-corruption image.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Robert Fico's Smer party was named in the files, and Fico had apparently met with a co-owner of the Penta group, but as this connection dated back some years, he was practically left unscathed by the scandal, catapulting him to win a landslide victory to power last month.

Outgoing Slovak interior Minister Daniel Lipsic this week took a last-minute swipe at the 'Penta Group' - which owns Privatbanka - and has officially called for Bratislava's financial watchdog to strip the bank from its licence on the back of allegations that it has been trying to cover up dubious financial transactions. He also questioned Penta's influence at the prosecutor's office, revealing the suspected depth of the murky financial group's power in Bratislava.

An inspection by the Slovakia's financial police revealed two questionable transactions to the tune of €7m that Privatbanka failed to report to the authorities.

Lipsic - who left his job when the new Smer-led government was sworn in on 4 April - said that he is considering filing a petition with the National Bank of Slovakia to suspend or revoke Privatbanka's licence, as two dubious cases have already been uncovered.

Penta is at the centre of the recent storm in Slovakia whipped up by the revelation of the existence of the Gorilla files. The alleged security services report is based on recordings made in 2005-06 which feature senior officials discussing privatisation deals and other issues with Penta.

The issue was suppressed until December, with many questioning the timing of the news being released three months ahead of snap elections which were held last March.

The elections were won by the Smer party by a landslide, as many of the parties in the outgoing coalition were hit hard by the allegations, including Lipsic's KDH.

The secret service report identifies a hefty bank transfer from "a Maltese bank" into the account of mafia-linked businessman Marian Kocner on 7 December 2011.

Videos of Kocner discussing the composition of the SaS party - another member of the outgoing government - with its leader Richard Sulik, further contributed to public outrage at the way Slovak politicians were selling themselves to big business, while the people were having to pay the price of the capricious deals.

Addressing the media last Thursday, Daniel Lipsic said that €3 million was allegedly paid for a securities trade in a tax haven, adding that the second suspicious transaction concerns a €4m payment by the Bratislava Tax Office.

That transfer, he said, was at odds with the nature and extent of the business activities of the Privatbanka client receiving it.

This business wont happen in malta.I don"t beleave when lots of people say we have wite colar criminals around the world like Maydoff In the USA.