In January 2018, Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová were murdered at home in the village of Veľká Mača in Slovakia. Jan was a journalist. At the time of his death, he had unveiled riveting proofs connecting ministers, police and judges to a mafia-linked oligarch. Unbelievable leaks of a stream of phone messages point to officials, including a former prime minister, and suggested that on numerous occasions, the former prime minister met with the “entrepreneur” Marian Kocner – whose phone is currently being unencrypted by the police as he pines in prison awaiting trial for allegedly plotting the assassination.
The bizarre homicide catapulted civil society groups in Slovakia and the EU itself to admit that corruption was endemic and soaked the highest levels of the Slovak state. GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, recently called for Slovakia to fully implement all sixteen of its ant-corruption recommendations, echoing the sentiments of the Commonwealth Caribbean Association of Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies (CCAICACB) that has urged Integrity Commissions and Anti-Corruption Bodies in the Caribbean to make recommendations to their Governments with a view to realizing reinvigorated political will, public sector and nationwide commitments, to continuously combat corruption.
GRECO flagged that three of its recommendations have not been implemented, all of which pertain to measures to improve transparency by introducing appropriate standards for members of parliament when dealing with lobbyists and third parties as well as the adoption of an enforceable mechanism to declare conflicts of interest. Another six recommendations were only partially implemented. Slovakia ranked 57th in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index with a score of 50 out of 100 — its worst score since 2013. Gabriel Sipos, director for Transparency International in Slovakia, noted that the murder of Jan and his partner resulted in some encouraging steps including the resignation and sentencing of politicians and “entrepreneurs,” but it also underscored the state’s weakness to combat corruption.
It is estimated that the level of corruption in Caribbean countries could be in the vicinity of 30% of their respective Gross Domestic Products. Bodies to acknowledge corruption perception indices and to engage independent integrity agencies to work regionally to determine strengths and challenges will permit the CCAICACB to disseminate objective corruption indicators to buttress efforts focused on Caribbean corruption eradication. One hope is that anti-corruption bodies might soon be able to share data and lists of persons of interest via harmonised strategies and practices. The strengthening of cooperation and the sharing of information alongside statistical measures on the real cost of corruption with people everywhere will be advantageous to the ordinary man.
Civil society organizations in Slovakia have established the “Jan Kuciak Investigative Centre” based on the model of the Czech Centre for Investigative Journalism which unites and supports journalism projects focused on revealing corruption and international organized crime in more than 30 countries on four continents. Along the same lines, Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT), has hosted a series of events centring on the shadowy homicide of Independent Senator Dana Seetahal who was murdered on May 4, 2014 in Woodbrook while commuting to her home.
Zuzana Caputova is a Slovakian divorcee and the mother of two children. She has absolutely no political experience. She is 45. The murder of Jan made her furious. She decided to offer herself as a candidate for the presidency of Slovakia. She framed her campaign as a struggle between good and evil. She defeated the high-profile diplomat Maros Sefcovic who was nominated by the governing Smer-SD party led by Prime Minister Robert Fico. Fico himself was forced to resign as prime minister following the leaked messages that evidenced countless meetings between the Slovak oligarch and the former prime minister.
An emerging feature of the Slovakian mindscape is wariness with old political parties and their “Grimm Tales” of corruption. The shift and the slippage towards new political parties like the Green Party in Europe is building momentum as people become disenchanted by corruption and its associated costs. Slovakia is not a failed state, but it may be a fake democracy- one that is practically a mafia state where “entrepreneurs” and oligarchs leave the poor with crumbs.
In an effort to count the real cost of corruption, the CCAICACB has asked Caricom to put the thorny issue of graft and corruption on their agenda and to craft Commissioner harmonised legislation that takes into consideration the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis stated that corruption remains a formidable challenge. The unemployed, the underpaid, and the self- employed all have an interest in counting the real costs of corruption.
The most recent Transparency Index showed that Barbados was rated 68 out of a possible 100 points, while Guyana scored 37. The UNDP’s poverty programme informs policy and programme development through advice, advocacy and initiatives that contribute to the development of poverty reduction strategies that address poverty alleviation. But if corruption is eradicated, then there will be no need to have a poverty alleviation programme. It is logical that the eradication of corruption will enable states to deliver to their people better, healthier and more prosperous lives.