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Italian businessman named by slain Slovak reporter held on drugs charge

© 2018 AFP

13 March 2018

Slovak police arrested Tuesday an Italian businessman wanted in Italy on drugs charges who had been named by murdered journalist Jan Kuciak in an investigative report on alleged high-level corruption linked to the mafia, prosecutors said.

Antonino Vadala, the owner of several companies, had been detained and released earlier this month over the alleged crimes in the reporter's article.

The new detention was based on a European arrest warrant issued by Italy last year over alleged drug trafficking.

"A court in Venice issued an arrest warrant for this person," Andrea Predajnova, spokeswoman for Slovakia's general prosecutor's office, said in a statement.

"The Italian court is demanding the extradition of Antonino V. for prosecution in Italy for a drug offence committed by an organised criminal group with a transnational scope."

Vadala's name was mentioned several times in Kuciak's last unfinished investigative report, which was published after the journalist and his fiancee were found shot dead at their home near Bratislava in late February.

The murders and article have sparked anti-government protests in the EU country of 5.4 million people, dealing a blow to the cabinet of Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose interior minister announced his resignation Monday and whose coalition partner has called for snap elections.

The article raised possible political links to Italian businessmen with alleged ties to Calabria's mafia supposedly operating in eastern Slovakia.

According to Kuciak, the names of several relatives of an Italian named Antonino Vadala with business activities in Slovakia appeared in 2017 in an arrest warrant for 18 members of a gang engaged in smuggling cocaine to Europe for the Mafia organisation 'Ndrangheta.

Vadala has denied the claims in statements to Slovak media.

On March 1, Slovak police detained seven Italians named by Kuciak in his story, including Vadala, but released them 48 hours later.