Charges have been dropped against ex-minister of interior Robert Kalinak after Deputy General Prosecutor Jozef Sedlak approved a challenge filed by Kalinak’s legal team on the basis of the controversial paragraph 363 of the criminal code.
“Serious transgressions [in the investigation] were found, which couldn’t be corrected in any other way, and which justified the cancelling of […] the decision related to charging Robert Kalinak,” spokesperson of the Office of General Prosecutor Jana Tokolyova was quoted as saying by the country’s public broadcaster RTVS.
The decision is another blow to the police's anti-corruption drive, begun after the long dominant Smer party lost power in the 2020 general election following an outcry over the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. Several key investigations have been halted by the general prosecutor's office and attempts to convict businessman Marian Kocner for Kuciak's murder have twice failed to be proven in court. Smer is now once again leading opinion polls ahead of snap general elections called for next month.
Kalinak, vice chairman of the populist Smer-SD party, was charged in February by the country’s National Criminal Agency (NAKA) together with a Smer-linked local oligarch Jozef Brhel for allegedly facilitating bribes between Brhel and the then head of the financial authority Frantisek Imrecze. Both Kalinak, longtime right hand man of Smer leader Robert Fico, as well as Brhel claimed that the charges were politically motivated.
The challenge of Brhel’s lawyer against the charges was turned down. “No transgression of the law was found which would justify cancelling of the challenged decision in legal force” in relation to Brhel, Tokolyova stated.
Paragraph 363 empowers the Office of the General Prosecutor, represented by Maros Zilinka, to revoke charges if transgressions or mistakes are found in the criminal proceedings.
In June, the Slovak Constitutional Court upheld the general prosecutor’s powers, turning down the challenge filed by Slovak President Zuzana Caputova and several parliamentarians on the grounds that the general prosecutor’s powers contradict the Slovak constitution.
“Decisions of the general prosecutor [based on the paragraph] do not interfere with judicial power,” Chairman of Constitutional Court Ivan Fiacan stated in the court’s June decision. These “represent a constitutionally acceptable intervention” and “do not interfere with the right for effective investigation”.
Last November, Zilinka and his first deputy Jozef Kanderka invoked the paragraph to stop other charges against Fico and Kalinak. Fico and Kalinak had been accused of running a criminal conspiracy group while in power in the 2010s.
In June, Czech Radio reported that Zilinka actively obstructs the efforts to investigate corruption cases linked to Fico’s era in power. “Zilinka uses paragraph 363 […] to enter any investigation up until the moment before it is moved to the court, and with that, put an end to the whole investigation,” editor of the Czech Radio Jakub Grim wrote.
The charges against Kalinak of facilitating bribes follow evidence from the former head of the Financial Authority in the Smer era, Frantisek Imrecze, who has confessed and begun cooperating with police.
In February, after the court found Imrecze guilty, he told the media that he was “part of the system of compensation of salaries”, which is “just one of the expressions of the organised close connection of oligarchy with the highest state power at that time”. Imrecze said he was sorry for it and was cooperating with Slovak authorities.
Imrecze plays a role in other investigations, including that of the Slovak central bank governor Peter Kazimir, whom the Special Criminal Court (STS) in Pezinok found guilty of bribery in April and fined him €100,000. Kazimir and the Office of the General Prosecutor challenged the fine, and Kazimir is now under trial at the STS in Pezinok.