MP Files Criminal Complaint Against 7 Banks for Swiss Franc Loans

By 4 October 2019

ZAGREB, October 4, 2019 - MP Goran Aleksić of the SNAGA party said on Friday he had filed a criminal complaint against seven banks that were convicted in a class action lawsuit relating to Swiss franc-denominated loans, accusing them of a joint criminal enterprise against the citizens of Croatia.

Aleksić filed the complaint with the State Prosecutor's Office (DORH) against Erste & Steiermaerkische Bank, Zagrebačka Banka, Privredna Banka Zagreb, Addiko Bank, Raiffeisenbank Austria, OTP Bank and Splitska Banka which is now part of it, and Sberbank.

Early in September the Supreme Court found that the banks had breached the collective interests and rights of holders of loans originally indexed to the Swiss franc.

The court dismissed the motion by the banks for a review of the case and ruled that the banks included unfair contractual provisions with a CHF clause and charged unfair interest rates, Aleksić said. He recalled that the annuities paid on the CHF loans were between 50 and 100 percent higher than those originally stipulated in the contracts, causing people traumas, divorces, suicides and evictions.

"Those were usurious loans," Aleksić said, adding that the banks had formed an oligopoly through the Croatian banking association and defrauded Croatian citizens of between 15 billion kuna and 25 billion kuna. He said that for this reason the national GDP had been lower in the last 15 years than it would have been had the citizens retained the money, the state budget was smaller by 3-4 billion kuna, while the banks got richer.

Aleksić said that even though their conduct had been found to be illegal, they had continued to charge unfair interest rates on CHF, euro and kuna-denominated loans until as late as 10 January 2013.

"That is the result of the banks' conspiracy to form an oligopoly, which is against the Competition Act because, without leaving paper trail, they indirectly set terms for consumer loans tied to the interest rate, which was changed by the bank, and to the CHF clause," he said.

Commenting on the arbitration proceedings in Washington initiated by four banks against Croatia over the conversion of CHF loans, he said that the case was in violation of EU law. "The banks are thieves that robbed the Croatian citizens. The conversion only reduced the principal, but the overpaid interest, exchange rate difference and default interest have not been paid back."

Aleksić concluded by saying that he expected DORH to investigate and prosecute the banks that had caused financial damage to the Croatian citizens, the national economy and the state budget. He said that France had taken similar action in 2015.

More news about banks can be found in the Business section.