Ivan Zidar of “Operation Clean Shovel” and Boštjan Penko, (now former) state prosecutor have been detained on Sunday in another episode of high-profile arrests which echoed throughout Slovenia. Zidar, who is still under investigation as a result of Operation Clean Shovel is about to face charges for tax evasion, and is apparently looking to build a team of stellar defence lawyers. To this end he approached Penko, who was just about to leave the Attorey General’s Office. Both Penko and Zidar were arrested after their meeting on Sunday and detained on charges of corruption and abuse of powers (Penko) and luring into criminal activity (Zidar). And then a funny thing happened. A judge refused to issue a search warrant for both men’s houses and cars and the two were subsequently released without charges and even without being questioned. So while on Sunday everone went Again?, on Monday most people went Waddafuck?. So let’s start putting two and two together:
Ivan Zidar (left) and Boštjan Penko (right)
–Ivan Zidar is in rather deep shit, as the case against him on tax evasion charges is rumoured to be pretty solid. So he needs a Slovenian version of Johnny Cochrane. Even more – he needs a couple of them, because there’s no jury in Slovenian legal system and the “if-it-don’t-fit-you-must-acquit” approach is not likely to work.
–Boštjan Penko was (still is) on the outs with Attorney General Barbara Brezigar. She relieved him as a member of a special task-force fighting white-collar crime, since he failed to bring charges against suspects in a buy-and-lease-back scheme which relieved quite a few Slovenians of a lot of money. Penko says there just wasn’t enough evidence to build a case, as the scheme was legal altough murky. He was also a fervent opponent of politics meddling with the work of prosecution. Prior to becoming prosecutor he was also a judge specialising in white-collar-crime cases, author of Slovenia’s first Code of Ethics in Civil Service and the first head od Anti-Corruption Commission.
–Barbara Brezigar, one of this country’s top lawyers is aslo considered one of PM Janša’s most faithful people. She ran for President of the republic in 2002 with support of Janša and his party and narrowly lost to late Janez Drnovšek. She also quashed investigations of arms dealings between 1991 and 1993, where then defence minister Janez Janša and his people repudetly made incredible sums of money selling arms to Bosnia.
-Prime Minister Janez Janša again had a couple of bad PR episodes. The fiasco with the referendum on regions, the thing with copying Blair’s victory speech made him the laughing stock of the nation, overshadowing the end of the EU presidency, which (also due to the result of the Irish referendum) ended with a puf rather than a bang.
And so we can already observe a pattern here: Whenever Janša feels he is losing ground he responds by creating an atmosphere of emergency
When Danilo Türk was elected President by a landslide, Janša started talking about resignation and called for a vote of confidence, where he presented himself as a victim of the bad, bad pressa and the evil, evil opposition, effectively stopping the political momentum of the opposition which supported the Prez.
When his and government’s ratings plummeted further, he announced a “war against tycoons” which culminated early in 2008 with Operation Clean Showel. Three CEOs were arrested, but all they could come up with were charges of tax evasion against Ivan Zidar
And now, when Janša can’t sell the referendum result as a success, when he was caught red-handed in Tony Blair’s speech-jar, when inflation is up to a staggering 7 percent and when he finally “handed the EU over to the French” he can make a comeback in style. And what better way to do it then to send in a SWAT team to pick up a loathed state procecutor who always refused to play ball.
Yes, they sent in special forces to arrest a 75-year old CEO and a state prosecutor. Let’s make one thing clear. Penko, although leaving the office was formally still a prosecutor (his term ended yesterday) and meeting Zidar was poor judgement at best. It transpired that Zidar gave him copies of his case for Penko to study and possibly join Zidar’s defence team. At first the whole thing looks a bit like Boris Popovič’s case in Koper, but Penko was on leave and annoucned his resignation some time earlier and therefore made his intention clear.
Given the fact that no charges were filed and that a search warrant was denied – which means that the case against the two is extremely weak – one cannot shake the feeling that arrests served at least two purposes: shifting the focus from prime minister’s blunders and giving Barbara Brezigar for revenge agains Penko for all the trouble he caused her.
It is quite possible that what we are witnessing in Slovenia is abuse of repressive organs to personal and political ends. Some people are convinced that more arrests will happen as elections near.