Slain journalist was investigating financial crimes, corruption

Slain reporter investigated corrupt politicians and organized crime

As backlash grows to the Slovak government’s initially tepid reaction to the brutal execution of a young Slovak journalist and his fiancée, more and more questions arise about allegations of criminality and corruption at the center of Jan Kuciak’s investigative reporting. Not surprisingly, the financial crime of money laundering is a prominent factor.

Kuciak, who had also participated in the Panama Papers journalism investigations, had been delving deeply into allegations of political corruption, questionable financing related to politically exposed persons, money laundering, and vast criminal ventures in his native Slovakia—much of it allegedly tied to an Italian organized crime syndicate based in Calabria.

Termed ’Ndrangheta, this Calabrian syndicate had allegedly made deep inroads into Slovakia and its corruption-ridden government. Kuciak at the time of his death was investigating allegations that ‘Ndrangheta had been buying politicians, making illicitly funded real-estate deals, and pursuing various other criminal opportunities.

In a 2013 report on crime syndicates in Italy, Eurpol characterizes the much less famous ‘Ndrangheta as follows: “Long underestimated as a rural, backward organization with limited scope, the ‘Ndrangheta is now recognized as a major threat not only in Italy but also in many other countries where it operates, including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, US, Colombia and Australia.”

The report attributes the expansion of ‘Ndrangheta from a regional force to a global one in part to the crackdown in the 1980s-90s on Cosa Nostra. The heavy police emphasis on the Sicilian syndicate created new opportunities for expansion by other less scrutinized syndicates. Money laundering the profits from drug-trafficking—especially cocaine–and the diversion of public funds through corrupt politicians have been central to the syndicate’s rise.

Kuciak’s work was sponsored in part by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which has extensive coverage of Kuciak’s work on its website.

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