Former HDZ Leader Karamarko Questioned by Prosecutors

By 19 December 2018

ZAGREB, Dec 19, 2018 - Former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko testified at the USKOK anti-corruption office about the fake text message scandal on Tuesday.

Karamarko told the RTL commercial broadcaster before his testimony that he was coming as a witness in the case which refers to former police IT specialist Franjo Varga, who has been in custody on the suspicion that he made fake text messages for a number of people and who, Karamarko said, was introduced to him by two of his friends in early 2017, when he was no longer the HDZ leader or the deputy prime minister.

"Those friends are not politicians," the former HDZ chief said, adding that the case should be cleared up as soon as possible.

He repeated that it was only after he stepped down as HDZ president and deputy prime minister that he met Varga, who mentioned Karamarko to investigators after his arrest. "He asked for a meeting with me, saying that he had information about electoral fraud in 2015. I naturally was interested in information about that, just as this institution should be," Karamarko told reporters outside USKOK.

Asked if he then hired Varga, Karamarko said that there "is an analysis of electoral fraud in Zagreb in 2015" and that he thought that Varga could make a similar analysis for the entire country, but that he never did.

"He always needed financial assistance, not big, small. The man obviously had financial problems so I responded," Karamarko said, adding that he had already told the media about that.

Asked if he would return to politics, Karamarko said, "only God knows and God will decide".

Former HDZ leader Karamarko said that he had never discussed Varga with HDZ deputy president Milijan Brkić, who has already testified in the case.

Blaž Curić, Brkić's close friend and chauffeur for Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić, has been arrested on the suspicion that he contacted Varga to tell him that he was under investigation and would be arrested.

Varga is suspected of fabricating text correspondence between former chief state prosecutor Dinko Cvitan and a judge who sat on the Osijek County Court panel which tried former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić, his brother Zoran, former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović and tax official Milan Pernar. The correspondence indicated that before the first instance verdict was delivered, Cvitan had pressured the judge into convicting one of the defendants without any evidence.

Varga is suspected of giving the fake texts to Mamić, who made them public at a press conference on June 4. Mamić's attorney then requested that the verdict be postponed, but the panel refused, finding all the defendants guilty on June 6 pending appeal.

Varga is also suspected of fabricating text correspondence alleging influence on Supreme Court judges, so that Mamić could use it in appellate proceedings.

In late November, the media published details of Varga's deposition in which he describes his relationship with Mamićas well as his cooperation with Karamarko, Brkić, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's former national security advisor Vlado Galić, as well as former Agrokor owner Ivica Todorć.

The Osijek County Court is to decide on Wednesday whether to extend custody for Varga and Curić or release them.

More news on the “text messages affair” can be found in our Politics section.