Investigators Freeze Assets of Suspects in Gas Trading Scam

By 28 August 2022

ZAGREB, 27 Aug (Hina) - Investigators have frozen assets worth more than HRK 800 million belonging to five persons arrested on Saturday on suspicion of wrongdoing in gas trading and money laundering, while the damage they are believed to have caused to the INA oil company is estimated at more than HRK 800 million.

The operation, launched early on Saturday morning by the USKOK anti-corruption office and police, targeted Damir Škugor, an executive in INA, Josip Šurjak, president of the Croatian Bar Association, Šurjak's business partner Goran Husić, with whom Šurjak owns the OMS Upravljanje company, Škugor's father, and Marija Ratkić, management board chair at the Plinara Istočne Slavonije gas company.

Following the arrests in Zagreb, Šibenik, Vinkovci, and on Hvar island, investigators searched the suspects' homes and business offices, including Škugor's office at INA and the Zagreb-based law firm of attorney Šurjak, who was arrested on Hvar.

Decision on investigation, custody on Sunday

Following the arrests, the suspects were questioned at USKOK, which is expected to say on Sunday if an investigation would be launched into the suspects and a request be made to place them in custody.

The suspects, who prosecutors want to be placed in month-long custody, will be brought on Sunday before an investigating judge who will decide on the prosecutors' motion.

According to unofficial reports, the suspects siphoned money from INA through OMS Ulaganja, which was established in 2019. Already in the first year of doing business, the company reportedly earned revenue in the amount of more than HRK 220 million.

The suspects allegedly took advantage of the constant rise in gas prices on the world market, with OMS Ulaganja buying gas below market prices from Plinara Istočna Slavonija, which had a gas purchase agreement with INA from before with favourable prices, and selling it on the international market at market prices.

Millions of kuna in Šibenik pensioner's bank accounts 

They allegedly spent the money thus obtained on real estate, with most of it ending up in the bank account of Damir Škugor's father, a pensioner living in Šibenik.

Without naming the suspects, USKOK said the arrests and urgent gathering of evidence were a result of a criminal investigation being conducted with the police anti-corruption office PNUSKOK, the Money Laundering Prevention Office, and the Tax Administration's financial investigations division.

USKOK said that after the suspects were questioned, it would make a decision on a further course of action.

Police said that after the criminal investigation, they would file a criminal complaint against the suspects with USKOK and place them in custody.

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