An investigative journalist and his girlfriend have been shot dead in Slovakia in a crime the country’s top police officer said may be linked to his work on suspected tax fraud.
Jan Kuciak, 27, and his partner were killed at their home 40 miles east of Bratislava, police president Tibor Gaspar said.
His last story – published in early February – focused on suspected tax evasion connected to a luxury apartment complex, with links to the Slovak government.
Mr Gaspar said the killings “likely have something to do with his investigative activities”.
Police were alerted to their deaths after a worried family member raised the alarm.
Mr Kuciak was shot in the chest while his partner, who was not named, was shot in the head.
Andrej Kiska, the Slovak President, called for a quick investigation while Robert Fico, the Slovak Prime Minister, said if the killing was indeed linked to his journalism, it would be “an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy in Slovakia”.
In his last post on 9 February, Mr Kuciak reported on transactions by firms linked to businessman Marian Kocner and connected to the Bratislava apartment complex.
Mr Kocner could not be reached for comment when contacted by Reuters on Monday.
Mr Gaspar said the investigation would look at all people who were in touch with the journalist.
He said police will provide protection for an unspecified number of other reporters from the news website Aktuality.sk.
“We are shocked and stunned by the news that Jan Kuciak and his partner were apparently victims of a cruel attack,” publisher Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia, to which Aktuality.sk belongs, said in a statement.
“We mourn with the family, the friends and the colleagues; we will do everything to support the investigating authorities to bring the perpetrator to justice.”
The case around the apartment complex prompted protests last year to demand the resignation of interior minister Robert Kalinak over his business dealings with a property developer who has been investigated over possible tax fraud. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.
Slovakia’s economy has boomed since it joined the European Union in 2004, but many Slovaks say their country still fails to defend the rule of law.
Additional reporting by agencies