This is the latest report by our colleague Ján Kuciak. The very last topic he worked on. He could not finish the article and publish it himself because he and his partner Martina Kušnírová had been murdered.
Aktuality.sk in cooperation with the Czech investigative journalism research center Investigace.cz, the journalist organization Investigative project of Italy and the international consortium of investigative centers Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have mapped how people close to ‘Ndrangheta have settled in Slovakia.
Fourteen years ago an Italian named Carmine Cinnante arrived in the town of Michalovce. One morning he started in his Fiat from a village of Novosad, about 40 kilometers far from Michalovce, where he was staying with his girlfriend Lýdia.
Cinnante was heading for Italy. He was joined by a Slovakian man called Ján whom he had promised to find work there. In the Michalovce district every fourth person of working age was unemployed at that time.
When the couple was driving on a field road, approaching the main road between the villages of Porostov and Ostrov in the Sobrance district, they noticed a police patrol. Their white Fiat Punto with Italian registration plates began to reverse suddenly.
The policeman became suspicious of the men’s behavior, they stopped the car and checked in. On the back seat they found a black wooden briefcase with a gun, 50 bullets and a magazine.
It was a functional Czechoslovak machine gun model 26 with a laser pointer but with destroyed production number.
According to experts, the briefcase was made especially for storing the machine gun. Cinnante was accused of criminal possession of a weapon, and the judge of the district court in Michalovce has sentenced him to two years on probation.
At that time the prosecutor addressed the Italian as an „entrepreneur with business in Slovakia in the field of agriculture“.
Tentacles reach out to Government Office
A few months later the Italian police came to arrest Cinnante. The reason was smuggling of weapons to Italy for the Mafia boss Guirin Iona.
Iona was the head of Belvedere Spinello, one of the clans of economically strongest Italian mafia of the present time – ‘Ndrangheta.
As the documents from investigation show, Carmine Cinnante is also its member. A man who Slovak authorities have only known as an entrepreneur in agriculture.
However Cinnante is not the only Italian with links to the mafia who found his second home in Slovakia.
They started doing business, receiving subsidies, drawing EU funds and especially building relationships with influential people in politics – as high as the Government Office of the Slovak Republic.
In the meantime, in their homeland of Italy they had also many problems with the law.
With the confidence of the mafia
At a farm co-op between the villages of Dvorianka and Parchovany in the district of Trebišov, the business of mafioso Carmine Cinnante meets Antonino Vadala. He also had problems with the police at home in Italy.
On Monday February 3, 2003 the court in Reggio Calabria in south of Italy ruled on nine defendants in a case involving another Mafia clan – Libri. The Libri clan is one of the most powerful within the ‘Ndrangheta.
Among the accused were Antonino Vadala, originally from the village of Bova Marina in the south of Calabria.
According to Italian investigators it was Vadala who, at the request of the clan, helped hide mafioso Domenic Ventura – convicted of the brutal murder of a member of competing gang – and helped him escape.
Italian policemen captured telephone conversations between Antonino Vadala and Francesco Zindato, the boss of the clan, in which the couple argued about the details of the action. In 2003, however, Vadala was released for lack of evidence.
In another case, the court in the ruling describes the situation as Antonino Vadala and two other men traveled to Rome to physically “punish” an unknown person who “caused damage to the clan”.
“He entrusted the task to the people whom (the boss of the clan Francesco Zindato) most trusted, among them to Antonino Vadala, “the judge explained.
When Vadala faced charges in Italy, he did not go to court to hear the verdict. He found a refuge and new home in Eastern Slovakia.
Vadala started a successful business in agriculture, then in real estate and in energy. He has become one of the most distinguished figures of the Italian community in Slovakia.
Entrepreneur in energy business
In 2009, information came out that an unknown Italian businessman Antonino Vadala plans to build two factories in Lu?enec industrial park for almost €70 million.
Although the project has been cancelled eventually, Vadala became an “energy entrepreneur”. That’s what the former minister of economy Pavol Rusko, who is now accused of ordering murder, called him.
Paradoxically, he remembered Vadala through the chief state councilor Mária Trošková, who works closely with Prime Minister Robert Fico.
“She used to work for us for about three months. It’s been a long time, about four years ago. But then, she met one entrepreneur of Italian roots, who, among other things was involved in solar power plants and went to work him,” said Rusko at that time.
The fact that her career continued with Fico at the Government Office did not surprise him very much: “Well, I thought it wouldn’t be so quick, but basically it did not surprise me, because she understood very quickly how to do things in life.”
Trošková and Jasa?
In August 2011 Vadala and Mária Trošková founded Gia Management. Trošková left the company after a year and later became Assistant to the Member of Parliament Viliam Jasa?.
Jasa? did not want to tell the media where he found this woman known as a model who also competed in the Miss Universe 2007 final. He said only that a friend recommended her to him.
“An assistant I used to have left me and a friend recommended this woman to me,” told Jasa? Nový ?as daily. Whether the friend in question was Antonino Vadala he refused to confirm.
However, in less than a year – in March 2015 – Maria Trošková left from Jasa?’s office and started to work for none other than Prime Minister Fico at the Government Office. A year later, Jasa? joined her there as well. Prime Minister named him director of the office and secretary of the State Security Council.
In addition Jasa? also received a top level security clearance. As a council secretary he is directly reporting to Fico.
Jasa? attends the Security Council meetings, elaborates summary statements for Fico and is responsible for documenting the council’s activities.
He therefore has access to all documents and information of the council, whose task is to ensure functionality of the country’s security system and, at the time of war, assumes the power of government.
However, Jasa? has proven to have ties to a man who has worked directly with the Italian Mafia.
The relationship between Jasa? and Vadala can be demonstrated especially in business activities. The politician of the ruling party Smer used to own a private security company Prodest.
Vadala and his colleagues have recently taken over this company. Besides that, Jasa?’s son Slavomír still has a joint venture with the Italians called AVJ Real.
In addition to that, when one of Vadala’s companies went bankrupt recently, it was revealed that Vadala had claims to a private security service in which Jasa? and his son Slavomír were involved in the past.
This means that two people close to the man who came to Slovakia as a person accused of being involved with the Mafia in Italy have daily access to the Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico, who choose them personally.
Vadala votes for Smer
In addition to Jasa? and Trošková other ties to politics, and the party Smer particularly, can be traced around Antonino Vadala.
For example, Vadala’s long-time accountant Monika ?orejová ran for the regional parliament in the past.
Vadala himself massively supports Smer, mainly campaigning on social networks. He praises Fico in front of his Italian friends, defends minister Kali?ák from intriguing opposition and vehemently supports Richard Raši from Smer in his campaign for president of the Košice Self-governing Region.
On election day, Vadala was trumpeting that “today we are all voting No. 16 Smer and we can be sure tomorrow Slovakia is in good hands.”
During the campaign he was openly declaring, he plans to visit the Smer conference in Košice. He wrote to Raši publicly saying they “see each other” there. He called Smer “our party”.
When the current ruling coalition was created, it was a reason for Vadala to celebrate.
Bullets and a funeral bouquet
Vadala and his Italian friends had problems with the law in Slovakia as well. In spite of a number of criminal proceedings, however, they are still successfully avoiding justice.
Here are just a few examples of cases involving suspected extortion and tax fraud.
Aktuality.sk together with their partners reconstructed the cases from the police and judicial documents which were obtained according to the Act of Free Access to Information.
Case number one took place in the east of Slovakia in 2013. One autumn morning employees of a company in the town of Trebišov found a strange delivery at the entrance gate.
There was a bag hanging on the fence containing matches, ten functional bullets and a funeral bouquet. It was wrapped in a piece of paper with „Jerad“ written on it. It was a misspelled version of their boss Gerhard’s name.
It was supposed to be a warning from a competitor that followed the threats of killing. The mocked name Jerad was often used by an Italian who claimed from the company nearly 40 hectares of arable land.
Jerad ignored the warning at first. He reported it to the police when his employee, a tractor driver, was threatened as well.
After two years of investigation…