Marián Kočner

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Marián Kočner is a Slovak entrepreneur operating mostly in the spheres of risk investment, financial development and property business. His name appeared in so-called "mafia lists"[1][2] - a set of documents allegedly leaked from police in 2005 containing lists of persons suspected of involvement in organized crime and vehicles used by them, intended as an aid for police patrols. Kočner's business practices had been a prominent topic of articles by Ján Kuciak,[3] an investigative journalist from Aktuality.sk who was murdered in February 2018. Couple of months prior to Kuciak's death, Kočner had allegedly threatened to "dig up dirt" on Kuciak by phone, saying "I will focus especially on you, your mother, your father, on your siblings.".[4] Kuciak had filed a criminal complaint but a subsequent police investigation concluded that Kočner's alleged statements did not constitute a criminal offence.[5] After Kuciak's murder, general prosecutor Jaromír Čižnár ordered the case to be reopened, however police again closed the case with conclusion that Kočner's statements do not constitute criminal offence. Aktuality.sk subsequently published transcript of the phone call between Kuciak and Kočner.[6] He is also connected to Alena Z. (suspect charged of ordering murder) via Alena Z.'s daughter as her godfather.[7]

Gamatex and TV Markíza[edit]

Kočner first gained public notoriety for his attempt to take over TV Markíza in 1998.

TV Markíza, one of the first private television channels in Slovakia, was founded by Pavol Rusko and Sylvia Volzová in partnership with CME Media Enterprises B.V. in 1996. Initially the channel was not successful in acquiring broadcasting license, licensing board objected that Rusko did not disclose Volzová as co-owner.[8] Rusko had entered into an agreement with Espé štúdio, company owned by Siloš Pohanka to pay 3 million DEM in exchange for help in getting broadcasting license for Markíza. Eventually the cast of licensing board changed, Markíza had secured broadcasting license and launched on 31 August 1996. However Rusko declared agreement with Espé štúdio invalid, as he argued that Markíza acquired license without help of Siloš Pohanka.[8] After unsuccessful attempts at getting money from Rusko, Pohanka sold his claim to Gamatex, company owned by Kočner. Kočner persuaded Volzová to acknowledge the claim and Kočner started court procedures to have the claim paid out.[9]

In August 1998 Kočner appeared at Markíza offices with court order giving him control over the TV station. When negotiations with Rusko regarding ownership dispute failed, Kočner occupied the TV station with hired private security and fired TV channel's top managers.[10] This caused public outrage, as the takeover took place only 10 days before parliamentary elections. At that time TV Markíza was deemed the main news outlet opposing the government of Vladimír Mečiar and an attempt at takeover was considered an attack on press freedom. Several thousand[10] of angry citizens gathered in front of Markíza's offices as a show of support and several politicians from opposition parties gave speeches at the rally. After two days, Kočner and his associates left the building[11] and ownership dispute continued in courts. According to news reports,[9][12] Kočner's involvement in TV Markíza seemingly ended in 2000 when Rusko bought Gamatex through intermediaries.

In a 2006 interview with aktualne.sk (not to be confused with aktuality.sk) Kočner said the security firm involved in takeover of Markíza belonged to Peter Čongrády, a local mafia boss, however in later interviews he denied hiring Čongrády.[1]

In June 2016 Kočner's company "Správa a inkaso zmeniek" initiated court proceedings with Pavol Rusko and TV Markíza to collect money owed to him under four promissory notes amounting to approx. €69 million. Kočner claimed that Rusko issued those promissory notes in June 2000 with Markíza providing endorsement for the notes. At that time Rusko was the executive director of TV Markíza as well as one of its shareholders.[13] Two of those notes amounted to €8.3 million each with maturity date in 2015 and another two were signed as "blank cheque" with amount €26 million and maturity date in 2016 added later.[14][15] Rusko acknowledged Kočner's claim in court and declared that the promissory notes were intended to resolve ownership dispute with Gamatex.[14] Markíza's management was unaware of the existence of the promissory notes.[13] They were not recorded in either company's accounting and were not discovered during the preparation of due diligence report when CME became only shareholder of TV Markíza.[15] In April 2018 court declared Kočner's claim as valid,[14] however in retaliation TV Markíza filed a criminal complaint against Kočner and Rusko for forging the promissory notes.[16] In addition, investigation into possible tax evasion began, since by not disclosing the possession of the promissory notes to tax authority Kočner's companies avoided paying tax from interest on the notes.[17]

In June 2018, Kočner has been detained by Slovak authorities in the case of promissory notes forgery together with Pavol Rusko, as well as various tax-related crimes.[18] On 8 March 2019 Marian Kočner was formally charged for having ordered the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in February 2018. Kočner remains in custody as of March 2019.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Burčík, Matúš (28 February 2012). "Marián Kočner. Mafián, ktorý neexistuje" [Marián Kočner. Mafia man, who does not exist]. SME (in Slovak). Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  2. ^ Dömeová, Annamária (21 June 2005). "Mafiánske zoznamy -- menoslov možných páchateľov" [Mafia lists - names of possible perpetrators]. Hospodárske Noviny (in Slovak). Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  3. ^ Mikušovič, Dušan (26 February 2018). "O čom písal zavraždený novinár Kuciak: Pátral vo verejných databázach, polovica z jeho posledných textov je o Kočnerovi" [What did murdered journalist Ján Kuciak write about: He researched public databases, half of his latest stories are about Kočner]. Denník N (in Slovak). Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  4. ^ Tódová, Monika (6 September 2018). "Kočner predal byt v Bonaparte a zastrašoval novinára, ktorý o tom napísal" [Kočner sold his apartment in Bonaparte and threatened the journalist who wrote about it]. Denník N (in Slovak). Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  5. ^ Tódová, Monika (26 February 2018). "Investigatívneho reportéra Aktualít Jána Kuciaka a jeho partnerku zavraždili, vláda núka milión eur za odhalenie páchateľov" [Aktuality's investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner were murdered, government offers million euros for tracking down perpetrators]. Denník N (in Slovak). Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  6. ^ "#AllForJan: Prestanete písať, hrozil novinárovi Kočner (kompletný prepis rozhovoru)" [#AllForJan: "You'll never write again", Kočner threatened journalist (full transcript of the conversation)]. Aktuality.sk (in Slovak). 8 April 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  7. ^ "The price of Ján Kuciak's head was €70,000". Slovak Spectator. 1 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  8. ^ a b "Príbeh jednej televízie: Toto všetko si preskákala Markíza" [Story of a TV channel: This is what Markíza went through]. www.zivot.sk (in Slovak). 4 October 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b Petronela, Ševčíková (23 October 2017). "Ako Pavol Rusko a Sylvia Volzová zakladali a predávali Markízu" [How Pavol Rusko and Sylvia Volzová founded and sold Markíza]. strategie.hnonline.sk. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b Tóth, Peter (16 September 1998). "Televízia Markíza obsadená" [TV Markíza occupied]. SME (in Slovak). Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Gamatex s ochrankou opustil Markízu, zamestnanci dostali záruky do 11. októbra" [Gamatex and private security have left Markíza, employees got guarantees until 11th October]. SME (in Slovak). 18 September 1998. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  12. ^ Tettinger, Marek (2 November 2005). "Rusko v Markíze skončil, televíziu ovládli Američania" [Rusko is done with Markíza, channel taken over by Americans]. Hospodárske Noviny (in Slovak). Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b "CME Enterprises Ltd. annual report". US Securities and Exchange Commission website.
  14. ^ a b c "Markíza prehrala, Kočnerovi má platiť milióny za čudné zmenky" [Markíza lost, must pay Kočner millions due to peculiar notes]. SME (in Slovak). 26 April 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b Petková, Zuzana (3 May 2017). "Kočner žaluje Markízu. Žiada milióny za Ruskove zmenky" [Kočner sues Markíza, demands millions for Rusko notes]. TREND (in Slovak). Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  16. ^ Kernová, Miroslava (14 May 2018). "Markíza podala trestné oznámenie na Ruska a Kočnera" [Markíza filed criminal complaint against Rusko and Kočner]. oMediach.com (in Slovak). Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  17. ^ Petková, Zuzana (21 June 2018). "Kočner a zmenky: má ich veľa. Aj od Penty" [Kočner and IOUs: He's got many, from Penta as well]. TREND (in Slovak). Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  18. ^ "NAKA detains businessman Kočner". The Slovak Spectator. Petit Press. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  19. ^ "Slovak man charged over double murder". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 14 March 2019.