STA, 12 October 2020 - Petra Grah Lazar has been appointed the acting head of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI; Nacionalnega preiskovalnega urada – NPU) third new leader of the specialised police unit for white-collar crime since May.
Grah Lazar was appointed by acting Police Commissioner Andrej Jurič, the police said on Monday, a week after her predecessor Uroš Lepoša stepped down citing personal reasons.
Lepoša resigned after less than three months on the job. Multiple media reports suggest he resigned because the NBI's work has become subjugated to politics.
The police last week rejected the notion that he had been the target of any sort of political pressure or attempts to influence his work.
Lepoša's brief term, which came after a similarly brief stint by Igor Lamberger, has been marked by several requests for the review of the NBI's work made by the Interior Ministry, in what some insiders claim constituted political interference.
The new acting head, Grah Lazar, was an NBI investigator between December 2010 and March 2014. She came to the NBI from brokerage firm Moja Delnica, where she worked as a stock broker, the police said on its website.
She holds a PhD in business and has most recently served as a financial consulting manager at Deloitte Svetovanje, before which she was corporate security head at the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), the country's bad bank.
Several media have described her as the favourite of the ruling Democrats (SDS). Senior government officials, including Prime Minister Janez Janša, have spoken of the need to depoliticise the NBI.
However, the opposition parties slammed Grah Lazar's appointment today as a prime example of politicisation, or in the words of Maša Kociper of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) even as "one of the most brutal appointments in the country's history".
Kociper is convinced that people do not resign after two months for personal reasons but because of political pressure, which was echoed by Matej T. Vatovec of the Left. He said the replacements were part of the search for somebody who will be fully servile to Janša and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs.
The appointment is also seen as the latest development in efforts "to subjugate the state's subsystems via appointments at oversight, repressive and other bodies" by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), whose Brane Golubović would prefer to see the government focus on healthcare capacities and on building of trust for the new Covid-19 wave.
The sentiment was echoed by SocDems deputy group head Matjaž Han, who said the NBI was a key institution that needed to be completely independent of daily politics, "which is why it is definitely not good that three new people were appointed to its helm in such a short period".
Marjan Pojbič of Janša's Democrats (SDS) sees things differently, saying the appointment of Grah Lazar was needed for the NBI to "function properly and line with laws and competences".
The deputy group head of the junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) France Jurša said he did not have enough information to say whether the move was legitimate, but he added that experience from past years showed "such things are always tied to politics".