Veterans Affairs Minister Mijo Crnoja Under Pressure to Resign

By 26 January 2016

Just four days after the new Croatian government took power, one of its members is already under pressure to resign. Veterans Affairs Minister Mijo Crnoja, who in just a few days became the most controversial minister in the new government due to his idea that the Registry of Traitors of Croatian National Interests should be published, is in the centre of the government's first major scandal.

It has been discovered that the minister is officially registered to live in Samobor near Zagreb. However, journalists have discovered that at that address there is no house or building, but just a ten-square-metre shed, which looks like a dilapidated warehouse and not a living space for a minister in Croatian government. The neighbours confirmed that the new minister certainly did not live there, but that he perhaps had bought the land to build a house in the future.

Mijo Crnoja actually lives with his family in a Zagreb suburb Podsused, which is confirmed by the fact that at the address in Podsused there is a company registered. The company is owned by a Ružica Crnoja, while a Mijo Crnoja is also mentioned in documents. It is probable that these are the Veterans Affairs Minister and his wife.

The possible reason for the fake official address is the fact that local income taxes in Samobor are lower than in Zagreb, so it is probable that the Minister has lowered his taxes in this way. If it is officially determined that Crnoja does not live at the address where he is registered with the tax authorities, he could be held criminally liable. Tax evasion for amounts over 20,000 kuna is subject to the Penal Code and can be punished with prison sentences of up to 10 years. Lower amounts are considered to be a misdemeanour.

It seems that on Monday night Crnoja tried to cover up information about his address. The official Parliament website last Friday published biographies of the new ministers, with the information that they had provided. Crnoja in his biography wrote that he lives in Samobor. However, after media published photos of the small wooden shed at the specified address, the biography on Parliament's website was changed and the address is not longer visible. The Parliament announced that the ministers' biographies were changed just in order to protect their personal information.

However, this is not the only scandal involving Crnoja. Nacional weekly published reports that Crnoja was detained at the Remetinec prison for violent behaviour and that a mother of a child with developmental disabilities has repeatedly reported Crnoja to the police for threatening them.

According to National sources, Crnoja ended up in a prison after he punched a bus driver in the head. Before the driver managed to report the incident, Crnoja fled the scene. The police found him only after another incident when he caused a car accident. The police were called to the scene of the accident and found that there is a warrant against Crnoja and arrested him. At that time, Crnoja was employed by the Croatian Embassy in Albania.

After the media started reporting the case of a single mother of a child with special needs in Zagreb who could not get to her car in a garage because a neighbour had welded the garage door, it turned out that the neighbour was the very same Mijo Crnoja. He was reportedly angered by the fact that the woman had bought the garage which he wanted for himself. The court proceedings were finished in May last year when the Zagreb County Court determined that she has the right to use the garage. However, she has not yet managed to enter it.

First Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko said today that he would talk with Crnoja about media reports and, if it turns out that he did something wrong, he will be punished. "I do not know the details, but I will talk with him. I see that there are now problems where there should be no problems. If he did something wrong, he will be punished", said Karamarko. "Let us deal with the real problems of veterans for whom he is responsible. These are huge problems, we have a huge population of veterans who are not satisfied with their status. Crnoja has another part of his life story – that is what he did during the war, how he behaved himself then and the influence he has with the veterans", said Karamarko.

MOST leader Božo Petrov said that these were worrying news for Crnoja. "I am not an intelligence service to know in advance all the information about people. Frankly, I am not happy to hear this, but I cannot talk about something in advance before I have all the relevant information", said Petrov. Asked whether Crnoja should resign if these claims are proven accurate, Petrov responded that it depends on Crnoja's decision. "The other thing is what would happen with people from MOST", said Petrov and added that he would discuss the issue with Karamarko.

However, latest news is that MOST has exerted strong pressure on HDZ and unconditionally demands that Crnoja must be forced to resign. "There will be no compromise. MOST requests his dismissal because he is a person who has too many scandals and cannot possibly be a minister", says a MOST source. Asked what if Karamarko decides not to remove Crnoja, the source said: "He will remove him."