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Slovak special prosecutor says government reforms to hit major corruption cases

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Slovak special prosecutor says government reforms to hit major corruption cases
Reuters
Reuters
December 11, 2023

(Reuters) - The new Slovak government's planned criminal law reforms, being pushed through parliament in a fast-track process, will impact some of the country's biggest ongoing corruption cases, the head of the special prosecutor's office (USP) said on Monday.

The USP has come into focus as the new government of four-time leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico, returning to power after a September election, has proposed reforms that include shutting down the special prosecutor's office that has been going after graft and organised crime cases for two decades.

President Zuzana Caputova has threatened to veto the reforms, while the European Commission and United States have warned about rushing changes without more analysis.

USP head Daniel Lipsic told reporters on Monday that the reforms would hit statutes of limitations and criminal penalties, and cited two major cases involving high profile businessmen as examples.

"My rhetorical question is whether it is in the legitimate interest to drastically interfere by law into ongoing criminal proceedings which will have to be stopped also against influential oligarchs for reasons of shortening of statutes of limitations and the reduction of criminal penalties," he told a televised news conference.

Lipsic, who had served as interior minister in a government opposed to Fico in 2010-2012, has offered to resign if that would halt Fico's plan to scrap the special prosecution altogether.

Since the 2020 victory of another anti-Fico government coalition, the USP has investigated over 100 people including police and judicial officials and influential businessmen, and around another 40 have been sentenced, according to Slovak media.

Fico has sought to approve legislation by Christmas that would disband the special prosecutor's office in January. He has accused the office of being politically motivated and has said its actions violated human rights.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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