Police officials deny political interference in police

Ljubljana – Former police commissioners Andrej Jurič in Anton Travner, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Petra Grah Lazar and her predecessor Andrej Lamberger denied political interference in the work of the police and police staffing as they were heard before a parliamentary inquiry into political interference in the police on Friday.

The hearing focused on appointments and reassignments of NBI investigators and of senior police officials after they were dismissed to newly-established tasks forces located at the Police Academy.

The inquiry’s chairman Rudi Medved, an MP for the opposition LMŠ, said these task forces were “nothing but a farce”, meant to find jobs for staff that was not to the liking of the government. The witnesses denied the allegation.

Appointed to a task force for migration were ex-Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, ex-director of the Criminal Police Department Boštjan Lindav, NBI deputy director David Antolovič and two NBI investigators.

Former Police Commissioner Andrej Jurič said he had set up the task force and proposed these members himself because of their competences, not to get rid of them.

He however declined to say with whom he had consulted about the reassignments, although the inquiry members warned him he was obliged to answer all the questions.

Some NBI investigators and senior police staff were reassigned to a task force for backlog at the Ljubljana Police Department, including head of investigation at the NBI Igor Kekec.

NBI director Petra Grah Lazar explained this was to help this department with competent staff. She stressed nobody had told her to appoint Kekec, who led the investigation into purchases of protective equipment at the start of the coronavirus epidemic last year.

Kekec had provided his take to the inquiry commission before, and since him and Grah Lazar contradicted each other, Medved said they would try to hear them both.

As to her appointment as acting NBI head, Grah Lazar said she had been put forward by then acting Police Commissioner Andrej Jurič, whom she had known for some time.

She said she had never been in contact with Prime Minister Janez Janša before her appointment, adding she considered herself to be competent to run the NBI.

Similarly, Jurič assured the MPs nobody had influenced him in choosing Grah Lazar, adding he had decided to dismiss her predecessor because he did not know him well while he had wanted to pick his own co-workers.

Grah Lazar also denied having notified tax adviser Rok Snežič, whom she knows and whom Janša also knows, about house searchers about which she had been informed. She said she had excluded herself from the investigation although she believes there was no conflict of interest.

The inquiry also touched on whether Economy Minster Zdravko Počivalšek had known in advance about the house search at his home of as part of the investigation into the purchases of protective equipment in June 2020. Lambergar said he could not say, yet back then “some information that was true appeared in the media”.

Anton Travner, who resigned as police commissioner on the day of the house searches related to the protective equipment, said he had decided to dismiss NBI director Darko Muženič because he had been unhappy with the NBI’s results, “while there were also other signs convincing me the problem was the leadership not investigators”.

Medved said today’s hearings proved to be within the expectations, yet a number of “contradictory statements have convinced us even more that the government is taking us straight towards subjugating the police to the ruling SDS and the other parties which support the coalition”.