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Former Slovak PM narrowly avoids police custody in organized crime case

Three-time former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico will not be going to jail after parliament narrowly failed to approve a motion to suspend his immunity from prosecution while he is investigated on organized crime charges.

Although the current ruling coalition under PM Eduard Heger has a two-thirds majority in the 150-seat legislature, only 74 MPs voted on Wednesday afternoon in favor of letting a court decide whether Fico should be taken into pre-trial custody, leaving the motion two votes short of passing.

Particularly embarrassing for the government were the votes of two MPs from the Ordinary People (OLaNO) party, whose leader Igor Matovič topped polls in the 2020 national elections on an anti-corruption platform that targeted Fico and his now-opposition Smer (Direction) party. Romana Tabák of OLaNO did not cast a ballot, while Katarína Hatráková abstained.

The Special Prosecutor’s Office, which handles organized crime cases in Slovakia, had asked parliament on April 22 to lift Fico’s immunity, which every MP enjoys by law, to permit his prosecution. Fico and former Interior Minister Róbert Kaliňák are alleged to have weaponized confidential tax and police records against political opponents prior to 2020 as the heads of an organized group involving former senior police and intelligence officers.

Economy Minister Richard Sulík, head of OLaNO’s coalition partner Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), described the failed vote as “the biggest political failure in [Matovič’s] career … He was defeated by his own MPs. He will never again be able to talk about fighting corruption.”

Matovič, who himself served as PM for two years until giving way to Heger, alternately vilified Fico and expressed regret in a social media post that “two MPs from our [party] believe that members of parliament are more important than ordinary people … it must have cost that corrupt criminal a lot.”

Noting that all 17 MPs from the coalition We are Family (Sme Rodina) party had abstained, Matovič added that “some may have [voted] out of naivete, some from idiocy, some for money, and some just wanted to buy insurance in case they ever faced justice themselves.”

Fico, meanwhile, took a sober tone after the vote: “I want to thank every MP who supported me, just as I respect everyone who had a different opinion.”

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