Murdered Slovak journalist 'probed Italian mafia links'

Slovakia police detain Italians named in murdered journalist's last report

Another Aktuality reporter, Canadian Tom Nicholson, said Kuciak told him about work he was doing into the Italian mafia and European Union funds for Slovakia.

Others carried banners saying "Mafia get out of my country" and used candles to spell out "Kuciak RIP" in front of the government building.

The march was the first of several planned to honour Kuciak and protest against graft.

In an interview, Tuesday with the Sme daily newspaper, Slovak-based Canadian journalist Tom Nicholson said Kuciak told him before his death that he was working on a story about possible Italian mafia involvement in a fraud case linked to European Union subsidies in eastern Slovakia. His research found a connection between Maria Troskova, the former Miss Universe contestant hired as an assistant to Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico and a man connected to the Italian 'Ndrangheta mafia - among the most feared worldwide.

Revelations about the recent work of a murdered Slovak journalist might suggest the involvement of the Italian mafia in his death.

Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova were found dead at their home on Sunday. The government is offering 1 million euros ($1.23 million) to anyone who helps authorities find the people responsible.

After the first details of the story appeared in Aktuality.sk and a newspaper, Sme, on Tuesday, Fico dismissed the reports.

Slovakia police detain Italians named in murdered journalist's last report
Seven Detained In Slovak Journalist's Murder Case

"You link innocent people to a double murder without any evidence", the prime minister said.

Analyst Milan Zitny said the slayings place Slovakia in the company of undemocratic countries such as Ukraine or Russian Federation where "the murders of journalists are nothing exceptional".

"It's crossing the line. It's no longer amusing", he warned Tuesday.

Separately, two Slovak officials named in the last report of journalist Jan Kuciak, who specialised in exposing fraud and cronyism, said in a statement that they had resigned pending the outcome of the investigation into his murder.

The murder came after a female journalist was killed with a bomb in Malta in October previous year.

Political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told AFP the murder and its possible links to the Slovak political elite "could prompt a political earthquake". "This case could shake the electorate of the governing SMER-SD party to its foundations".

Fico, who once told journalists they were "dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes", met the editors of top Slovak media outlets on Tuesday to assure them of his government's commitment to the "protection of freedom of speech and the safety of journalists".

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