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Slovenia’s party financing inquiry finds alleged smoking gun

8 months ago 32

A parliamentary inquiry into unlawful financing of political parties appears to have found evidence showing that Slovenia’s largest opposition party, The Democrats (SDS), has built a parallel financing system by enticing companies to advertise in party-owned media in exchange for lucrative state deals.

SDS are currently in opposition but have been the ruling party three times before, most recently in 2020-2022. The inquiry has found that at least four construction companies got €35 million worth of watercourse management contracts with the state during this time.

These companies were supposedly paying for advertising, but the amount of their ad spending far exceeded the prices of advertising on the market.

“Advertising contracts worth €500,000 were concluded when the Environment Ministry … granted these construction companies a concession for watercourse management,” says the interim report presented on Tuesday.

It adds that the companies NovaTV24.si, Nova Hiša, Nova Obzorja and Geopolar Zaščite, which are directly or indirectly co-owned by the party, are a “political and business project of the SDS”.

Based on statements by sources and witnesses and on documents, the inquiry commission has concluded that these companies operate as financing vehicles for the SDS.

The commission finds there is good reason to suspect that everyone who entered into these deals had to “pay something back”.

It is believed that individual companies transferred part of this money in the form of donations, consultancy contracts or without any stated purpose to NovaTV24.si, Nova Hiša and Nova Obzorja.

Inquiry Commission Chair Mojca Šetinc Pašek said that additional explanations are being sought from competent institutions and authorities.

However, she confirmed that the suspicion was that, to get a concession or expand the existing one, “construction companies concluded fictitious advertising contracts with at least two, three companies which are the subject of the inquiry”.

The SDS did not wish to comment on the news beyond MP Anja Bah Žibert saying that Slovenia had bigger problems to focus on, including migration, floods and the government crisis. “Problems are much bigger than the financing of certain newspapers or media,” she said.

(Sebastijan R. Maček | sta.si)

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