Billionaire Charged as Slovak Premier Wages Anti-Graft Quest
Billionaire Charged as Slovak Premier Wages Anti-Graft Crusade
(Bloomberg) -- Slovak police detained the country’s second-richest man, Jaroslav Hascak, marking the most influential private-sector catch in the government’s anti-corruption crusade.
The detention of the founding partner of Penta Investments, a private-equity group that valued its assets at 11.2 billion euros ($13.5 billion) last year, follows a series of high-profile arrests in recent weeks under Prime Minister Igor Matovic, who won the February elections with an anti-graft campaign.
Slovak media showed footage of dozens of policemen with machine guns raiding Penta’s offices in Bratislava, the capital, on Tuesday.
Hascak was charged with corruption for illegally obtaining classified wiretaps, Penta spokesman Martin Danko said by phone. Hascak rejected the charges and will use all legal means to fight them, Danko said.
Police spokesman Michal Slivka declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
Matovic has said he “untied the hands” of police since he took power earlier this year. The chief special prosecutor, the former police president, several judges and a number of influential business people have been charged with corruption and other crimes.
“I pledged such a purge before the elections, but I’m not doing it myself,” Matovic told reporters on Wednesday. “I am just a spectator here.”
Transcripts of wiretaps leaked to the media in which Hascak was allegedly heard describing bribes in 2005 with officials from the government at the time rocked Slovak politics in 2011, triggering an investigation that has dragged on since. Penta and Hascak deny any criminal activity and have always co-operated with the police, Danko said.
Premier Matovic is an outspoken critic of Penta, which among other businesses owns the European Union member’s largest private health insurer.
The Prague-based investment group was originally established in Slovakia shortly after the fall of communism in the 1990s. Its companies employ more than 46,000 people in industries including financial services, real estate, health care, retail, manufacturing and the media. It generated 6.9 billion euro in revenue in 2019.
Hascak is Slovakia’s second richest person, with an estimated net worth of 1.1 billion euros, according to Forbes. He stepped down as a managing partner of Penta Investment on Wednesday. Iain Child, who joined Penta in 2010, will take over the position, the company said on its website.
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