Bratislava/Brussels, March 2 (CTK) – The Slovak Supreme Audit Office pointed out faults in the granting of EU subsidies in agriculture, as early as 2017, when it inspected the Slovak Agriculture Payment Agency (PPA), it has turned out in connection with a recent murder of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak.
Kuciak wrote about a possible abuse of EU subsidies by companies of Italian businessmen connected to the Calabrian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta.
The European Parliament, too, is on alert and its civic freedom, justice and interior committees have organised MEPs’ journey to Slovakia on suspicion of Kuciak’s murder being associated with subsidy frauds.
Czech MEP Tomas Zdechovsky has said the MEPs’ findings will not be public “for the time being” owing to the sensitivity of the case.
Zdechovsky suggested that the European Commission (EC) was considering involving the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in the investigation of the possible misuse of EU funds in Slovakia.
OLAF sposkeswoman Silvana Endulescu said OLAF was aware of the information in the media relating to a possible abuse of EU funds, but said she could not comment on this further.
Last year’s NKU inspection focused on the the PPA under PM Robert Fico’s (SMER-SD) second, one-colour cabinet in 2012-2016. The inspection criticised PPA’s subjective criteria for subsidy applications’ assessment and missing control mechanisms.
Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matecna, from the present, third cabinet of Fico, dismissed the PPA top managers.
Kuciak wrote about millions of euros in direct payments and further subsidies that the PPA granted to the businessmen in question. He questioned the legality of some of the payments and claimed that one of the companies had applied for funds for a significantly larger land area than it was farming in fact.
On Thursday, Slovak police detained seven people within the investigation of the killing of Kuciak and his fiancee, including the Italian businessman Antonino Vadala, whom Kuciak wrote about.
Slovak police said this morning that they could not provide details on remanding in custody or releasing any of the seven people that were detained.
According to the ANSA agency, Italian police previously alerted the Slovak police and international bodies of the now arrested Italians as they could be linked to the ‘Ndrangheta.