Marián Kočner, a controversial Slovak businessman, alleged to have ordered the killing of a young journalist, Ján Kuciak, in 2018, is now—on account of the investigation of the murder—known to have controlled many judges at different levels of the judiciary, frequently bribing them in exchange for information and favorable verdicts. In this case study, we analyze Kočner’s influence on the Slovak judiciary system through the concept of state capture. State capture, manifested in a substantial overrepresentation of powerful economic interests over the state and its political system, has long been a topic of interest for researchers specialized in post-communist countries. Despite frequent use in academic literature, however, its operationalization remains inconsistent. We propose that four empirical criteria can define state capture: (1) identifying multiple corrupt public actors on the one hand, and a captor exerting some form of decisive influence over them on the other; (2) an illegitimate exchange takes place—that is, the mechanism of capture; (3) the exchange has a beneficial outcome for the captor; and (4) the captor’s influence within the institution is systematic. We argue that in the case of “Kočner’s judges,” all these criteria are fulfilled.

You do not currently have access to this content.