Saturday, 11 September 2021

Grbin Says He Feels Stupid Because of SDP Member Suspected of Faking Threats

ZAGREB, 11 Sept, 2021 - Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said on Saturday he felt stupid because of SDP member Stjepan Kovač, who made up threats over which Grbin comforted him, but would not talk about his future in the party until he talked to him.

Grbin was responding to reporters who asked if Kovač would be punished by the party or even ousted after being arrested yesterday on suspicion of having staged death threats.

Grbin said he expected to have an answer in five to six days, adding that anyone who committed a crime must be held to account, regardless of which party they were from.

Asked if he felt deceived because he comforted a teary-eyed Kovač in front of the cameras over threats which Kovač allegedly made up, Grbin said he would do it again if a colleague told him that they were being threatened and if the police took the threats seriously enough to give them protection.

"A threat in politics is not allowed because it's not just a threat against a person, but is also a threat against the rule of law."

He said that if the charges against Kovač proved to be true, the colleagues who had been threatened for real would be brought in a "very unfavourable position because tomorrow everyone will question if the threat is real... making their life and work difficult."

Grbin said if Kovač was indeed guilty, "that's totally inappropriate." He added that he did not feel deceived. "But stupid? Certainly."

Reporters also asked him about Matija Posavec, who resigned as Međimurje County head today after admitting to bribe-taking. Posavec won a seat in parliament on the SDP slate and could now activate his term.

Grbin said a corrupt person who admitted to bribe-taking had no place in politics, including in the SDP and its parliamentary group.

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Friday, 2 July 2021

Highlights of the Week: 5 Big Events in Croatia from June 28-July 4

June 3, 2021 - TCN's highlights of the week. A look at the events in Croatia from June 28 through the selection of TCN's reporter Ivor Kruljac.

EURO 2020 elimination and Dario Šarić in the NBA finals. Zagreb witnessing a series of arrests related to corruption of Milan Bandić's reign and explosive device planted in Split. In the midst of it all, is COVID-19 vaccination on its way to becoming obligatory and not optional? You may prefer the good news or the bad news, but here is both, as another week in Croatia comes to an end.

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© Marin Tironi / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Uskok arresting Zagreb entrepreneurs and associates of former mayor Milan Bandić

The Office of Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation by members of the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor and the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) started at the city administration offices at 6 am on Wednesday.

As TCN wrote, several people were arrested on suspicion of corruption, including the director-general of the HRT public broadcaster, Kazimir Bačić, Andrea Šulentić, and Ana Stavljenić-Rukavina. Both Šulentić and Rukavina were directors in Zagreb administration offices and close associates of former mayor Milan bandić. At the same time, details Bandić's heavy corruption (suspected and known publicly earlier) came to light.

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© Goran Stanzl / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Croatia eliminated from Euro 2020 after losing to Spain

Croatia and Spain met in Copenhagen on Monday for their EURO 2020 round of 16 match. It was a decent effort from Croatia, but not enough. Despite the Spain own goal in the 20th minute, the distraction as Rebić went to change his boots saw Spain even the score. The score towards the end of regular time went to 3:1 for Spain, but Croatia managed to lower to 3:2 and finally, in the added time, Pašalić scored for 3:3.

But, the euphoria was ruined for Croatia as in extra time, Morata earned Spain 4:3, and by 103rd minute, the total and final score was 5:3 for Spain. It was one of the more intense games on Euro so far as both teams show incredible spirit and persistence. 

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© Dusko Jaramaz / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Opposition parties against vaccination being required for job-keeping payments  

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday not to make vaccination a requirement for job-keeping payments, while the Most party said business owners were being blackmailed into vaccination.

As TCN reported, SDP leader Peđa Grbin elaborated his dissatisfaction via social networks.

"In Croatia, mandatory vaccination is possible, but the obligation is first established under the law on the protection of the population and then regulated and worked out under Immunisation Rules and the Mandatory Vaccination Programme. The obligation of vaccination can't be imposed in another way, notably not by linking support for entrepreneurs with vaccination," SDP president Grbin posted on Facebook.

"Most is against entrepreneurs, who are being forced into vaccination through blackmail, saving the government's mindless epidemic policy", stated the Most party on its official Twitter account. They added that Croatia was stuck with over 300,000 surplus vaccines because of poor government moves and communication omissions.

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© Hrvoje Jelavic / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Dario Šarić becomes 5th Croatian basketballer in the NBA finals

Šibenik's Dario Šarić is the 5th Croatian basketball player to reach the NBA finals! As TCN wrote, Šarić became only the fifth Croatian basketball player in the NBA league finals, joining the company of Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoč, Žan Tabak, and Ante Žižić. Šarić plays for Phoenix Suns. They topped the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2 in the NBA Western Conference Finals. Apart from basketball, Šarić also likes to enjoy sipping coffee on Šibenik cafe terraces, as portrayed in the photo. 

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© Milan Sabic / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Bomb planted in Split. One person injured
In the night from Thursday to Friday, an unknown person placed an explosive device underneath a vehicle. The explosion damaged six cars, and one person required medical attention. The investigation is ongoing since Friday morning.  

To learn more about Croatia, have a look at our TC website.

For more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Zagreb County Court Orders Investigative Custody For Mamić Brothers

ZAGREB, 23 June, 2021 - A Zagreb County Court investigative judge decided on Wednesday that Zdravko and Zoran Mamić should be remanded in custody, which once it becomes final, will serve as the basis to request their extradition from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hina learned from the court.

The remand order was issued due to flight risk and risk of repeating the crime, Judge Krešimir Devčić told Hina.

He added that a panel of judges had upheld an appeal by the USKOK anti-corruption office against an earlier ruling which rejected the custody request. Once today's ruling becomes final it will serve as the basis for Croatia to request that the Mamić brothers be extradited to Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina pursuant to an agreement between the two countries that entered into force in 2014, Devčić explained.

On 10 June the investigative judge rejected USKOK's request to arrest the fugitive Mamić brothers because warrants for their arrest had already been issued and custody had been set in other cases against them.

Businessmen to remain in custody, judges released on bail

With regard to the other suspects in this case, the court confirmed on Monday that Osijek County Court Judge Darko Krušlin was released on bail while Judge Zvonko Vekić and Osijek businessman Drago Tadić were still behind bars.

A third suspect, Judge Ante Kvesić, had also been remanded in custody. He did not appeal against the decision and a final ruling has ordered disciplinary action against him, removing him from his judicial duties. As there was no cause to keep him detained, Kvesić was released on bail on Monday.

USKOK launched an investigation into the six suspects for giving and accepting bribes and influence peddling.

Krušlin is charged with accepting an Audemars Piguet watch in exchange for interceding for Mamić during the trial against him before the Osijek County Court.

USKOK said that in the period from April 2017 to 21 May 2019 Zdravko Mamić, at the time an indictee in several cases that also included his brother and other indictees, met with Judge Vekić in Zagreb, Osijek, Banja Luka, Široki Brijeg and Dubai. Mamić gave Vekić a total of at least €370,000 for him and the other two judges.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Dijana Zadravec Presents Her Evidence of Corruption in a Zagreb Hospital

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - The National Anti-Corruption Council on Tuesday interviewed the dismissed head of the radiology ward of Zagreb's Sisters of Charity Hospital, Dijana Zadravec, who presented her evidence of criminal activities used to siphon money from the hospital.

Zadravec, who has been on sick leave since May, told members of that parliamentary body that she learned yesterday from the media that acting hospital director Zoran Vatavuk had given her a warning before dismissal for harming the hospital's reputation, noting that the hospital's reputation was harmed by corruption and those who committed and covered it up.

Zadravec said that her fight against corruption started in 2016, when her persecution and harassment started as well.

She said that as the deputy hospital head she reported in 2016 the charging of fictitious overtime work which the then director Mario Zovak had covered up, adding that she had reported this to the prosecutorial authorities and the Health Ministry.

Zadravec said that in late 2020 she discovered a criminal network at the hospital, with public money being siphoned by doctors, which was why she reported them for abuse of office.

The doctor, who claims to have extensive documentation proving her allegations, says that offers to suppliers with whom the hospital did business without public tenders, since the last public tender was conducted in 2019, were signed by doctors Vladimir Kalousek and Branimir Čule, and that the offers exceeded HRK 30 million.

She also cited cases when less material was used for operations than the quantity ordered from suppliers.

Commenting on Zadravec's allegations, the State Secretary and chair of the Sisters of Charity Hospital Steering Board, Tomislav Dulibić, said that hospital documentation was being checked by inspectors from the health and finance ministries and the HZZO health insurance agency.

"According to preliminary information, no significant departures have been found, except for some minor irregularities. Eleven inspectors are working on this, invite them to testify," Dulibić told the Anti-Corruption Council.

He said that the decision to carry out the inspection at the hospital was made a couple of weeks ago, noting that the relevant proceedings were underway.

The chair of the Anti-Corruption Council, Nikola Grmoja, asked if anyone had responded to Zadravec's claims, to which Zadravec said that after she reported the false charging of overtime work, Health Ministry inspectors were called in and concluded that the matter should be investigated by the hospital director.

Allegations should be investigated as soon as possible 

After conducting the interviews today, the Anti-Corruption Council adopted a conclusion asking the ministries of health, finances and economy as well as the prosecutorial authorities and the USKOK anti-corruption office to determine facts related to the case as soon as possible.

Zadravec was told to submit copies of the reports she had sent to the competent authorities as well as the text message in which, she claims, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković lobbied for Zovak's reappointment as the hospital head.

The Anti-Corruption Council will send the audio recording of today's hearing to the prosecutorial authorities, and it will ask the Health Ministry to submit all documents on inspections conducted at the hospital since 2016 or explain why no inspections were conducted.

The Council will also ask the government to secure additional conditions for the employment of financial investigators at courts in four big cities.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Mass-Scale Emigration From Croatia Has Led To Rise in Corruption - Study Finds

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - The emigration of Croatian citizens, in addition to having incalculable implications for the country's pension, education and health care system, has also lead to a rise in corruption in Croatia, Večernji List newspaper said on Tuesday, citing a study by Tado Jurić, a political scientist and historian from the Croatian Catholic University.

The study showed that corruption and emigration were interrelated.

Jurić compared corruption and migration trends from 2012 to 2020, notably the number of Croatians who emigrated to Germany, the country where most Croatians go to in search of work and a better livelihood, and the ranking of Croatia in the global corruption index, and found that corruption was more pronounced when the number of people who left the country was higher. Croatia ranked 63rd among 180 countries included in the corruption index in 2019 and 2020, and 50th before the emigration wave reached its peak.

"Common sense says that if people who are not involved in corruption networks emigrate and those who stay are involved in such networks, corruption activities will be even easier to carry out and more frequent. If critics leave, all the better and easier for those criticised," Jurić says, adding that corruption is deeply rooted in Croatian society and has become a parallel system that undermines the economy.

"Corruption has done even more damage to the Croatian national identity, the sense of unity and solidarity, and to Croatian culture in general than it has done to the economy, which is unquestionably enormous. The main negative effect of corruption affected the country's human resources and political stability. In Croatian society, corruption has become a privilege of the elites, but so-called major corruption, political corruption and clientelism should not be confused with so-called civil corruption.

"So-called elite corruption has given rise to a special phenomenon in society which could be called 'a revolt of the elites'. It is the elites that use the media for their everyday protests against the media, citizens and institutions, making citizens accustomed to the practice that they should not express their dissatisfaction with politicians, but that politicians should express their dissatisfaction with them," Jurić said.

The study shows that 65.3 percent of 178 small, medium and large companies polled said that corruption has been on the rise in the last five years, while 32.4 percent believe that there has been no significant change.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Arrested Osijek Judges Sent to Zagreb For USKOK Questioning

ZAGREB, 9 June, 2021 - The three judges of Osijek County Court who were arrested on suspicion of graft on Wednesday morning have been transferred to Zagreb for questioning by the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK).

According to unofficial information, the judges Darko Krušlin and Ante Kvesić were already brought to the USKOK headquarters, after which judge Zvonko Vekić and businessman Drago Tadić were expected too.

USKOK said the arrests were the result of an investigation conducted in cooperation with the police anti-corruption office (PNUSKOK) and tax authorities. The investigation was prompted by accusations made by former Dinamo football club boss Zdravko Mamić who claimed he had bribed the judges concerned to clear him of the charges of embezzlement of money from that sport club.

The State Judicial Council (DSV) previously launched disciplinary proceedings against Krušlin and Vekić, following a request to that effect by the Osijek County Court, for socialising with Mamić. Mamić fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina a few years ago before the announcement of a trial court ruling in a case in which he was charged with siphoning HRK 116 million from Dinamo.

The judges were suspended in late March pending the completion of disciplinary proceedings, and the DSV at the time also rejected a motion by Mamić's defence to be party to the proceedings.

The arrest of three judges a blow to the court

Osijek County Court president Zvonko Vrban told Hina today that the apprehension of the three judges was "a blow to the County Court in Osijek in terms of its functioning."

The court is going to make technical rearrangements, however, "the reputation of those who work in the court can now be questioned by clients".

Vrban declined to comment on the speculation that Mamić bribed the judges in cash, by paying for their travel arrangements and buying them shoes and clothes to make sure they would acquit him.

Last October, Mamić sent USKOK corruption investigators a USB stick with evidence incriminating the judges. On 16 March this year, after the Supreme Court upheld the trial court sentence against him of six and a half years in prison, Mamić held a press conference in the southern Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar, accusing Supreme Court President Đuro Sessa and judges Vekić and Krušlin of corruption and bribe taking, and calling Osijek County Court president Vrban "a criminal who will be dismissed sooner or later."

Mamić claimed that he had paid Vekić over €500,000, which he was to split with Krušlin and Kvesić.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

President Zoran Milanović Says HDZ Should Exempt Itself From Vote on Zlata Đurđević

ZAGREB, 11 May, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović has said that his candidate for Supreme Court President Zlata Đurđević's programme is not the reason to reject her candidacy and that the HDZ should exempt itself from voting on her appointment as the party is in a conflict of interest, having been convicted of corruption.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Milanović said that nobody had read Đurđević's programme and that it was more serious than anything Plenković had ever written but that that was not crucial for her appointment.

Plenković will come up with another reason (to reject her) tomorrow, he said.

Plenković said on Monday that Đurđević would not be backed by the ruling majority also due to her "populist political programme."

The premier said that the programme was designed to restore the system of election of judges as existed at the time when politicians appointed judges, recalling that she had failed to apply to the first public call for the position.

Milanović said today that he expected the Supreme Court President to be strict, have high criteria and, if necessary, launch disciplinary proceedings.

If a "completely inexperienced" politician like Plenković could have become "such a brilliant prime minister", then Ms Đurđević can do a job that is still less complicated than that of a prime minister, said Milanović.

The HDZ should exempt itself from the vote on the Supreme Court President because the party has a case pending before the Supreme Court, he noted.

To the extent the Supreme Court President will have minimum influence on the case, the HDZ is in a conflict of interest, he added.

Milanović also said that Plenković had started entertaining plans to have him replaced.

Plenković said yesterday that he received a report from Albania, where "Milanović's friend (PM Edi) Rama" was initiating a no-confidence vote in President Ilir Meta for interfering in elections and inciting to hate speech and violence.

"He is talking about the Albanian no-confidence vote instead of phoning Rama and congratulating him, like most European leaders. By the way, the Albanian president was elected by the parliament, and I was elected by Croatian voters," Milanović said, adding: "He should take care that that does not happen to him."

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

HDZ Mayoral Candidate in Zagreb Davor Filipović: Fighting Corruption Top Priority

ZAGREB, 28 April, 2021 - The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) mayoral candidate in Zagreb, Davor Filipović, on Wednesday presented his election agenda, and said that fighting corruption was a top priority in the document.

"We are going to introduce the ISO 37001 anti-corruption standard, following the model set by the City of Prague, and it refers to the corporate responsibility, control mechanisms and action plans when there is suspicion of cases of corruption in the City of Zagreb or in any city institutions," said Filipović pledging to create an anti-corruption atmosphere in the capital city.

He also said that one of the priorities would be the fast and efficient post-quake reconstruction of the city and recalled that €683.7 million is available for this purpose through the EU Solidarity Fund.

The HDZ mayoral candidate promised free-of-charge services in pre-school day-care institutions for all the children in the city.

Filipović promised the closing of the Jakuševac waste landfill, the construction of a centre for waste management, and the modernisation of public transport vehicles, as well as the construction of the Jarunski Most bridge and a new stadium in Maksimir.

Filipović's agenda also envisages the establishment of a Homeland War Museum and a centre for war veterans in the city.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: At The Moment I Don't See That Gabrijela Žalac is Guilty of Anything

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that at the moment he did not see that former minister Gabrijela Žalac, an official of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), is guilty of anything after the USKOK anti-corruption office expanded its investigation in the windpark scandal.

"I read the press release for my information. Our judicial bodies are independent. You are aware of our position - we have zero tolerance to corruption. I don't what is behind that and I cannot deduct from the press release what exactly it has to do with," Plenković told reporters during a visit to Split-Dalmatia County.

I don't have any information about what USKOK and the State Prosecutor (DORH) are doing.

What he does know is that the loan in question was approved, as far as he is aware, in accordance with the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) rules.

"We have to see here what this is about exactly. At the moment I don't know nor do I have any detailed information of what USKOK or DORH are working on. She is a member of the HDZ. At the moment I don't see that she is guilty of anything," said Plenković.

He claimed that he saw Žalac about a month ago but they did not discuss the windpark case.

"She will deal with this situation on her own and as far as our relationship is concerned, it is as it was in any case," underscored Plenković.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Nikola Grmoja (Most Party): "PM Andrej Plenković is the main sponsor of corruption in Croatia"

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - MOST Party Member of Parliament Nikola Grmoja on Tuesday commented on the latest developments in the wind park scandal, saying that even though he is trying to avoid it, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is the main sponsor of corruption in Croatia.

He appointed ministers Gabrijela Žalac and Marija Vučković, he appointed Minister Tomislav Ćorić and all those who are directly or indirectly connected to the wind park scandal and now he is acting as if he didn't know anything, Grmoja told the press in Parliament House.

We saw that former minister Žalac lobbied for loans to be approved in that scandal, said Grmoja, recalling that while MOST Party was in government, that project did not get the green light because it lacked the necessary environmental impact study, and that as soon as MOST Party was ousted, Minister Ćorić approved the project.

Responding to a reporter's comment that even after the scandal was uncovered, many of its participants kept their positions, Grmoja said that the "mafia doesn't forget its members."

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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