Sunday, 30 June 2019

President: Any Public Office Implies Sense of Moral Obligation

ZAGREB, June 30, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Saturday that it was up to the relevant state institutions to establish if Public Administration Lovro Kuščević's business affairs had been legal and that any public office, notably those held by politicians, implied a sense of moral obligation.

As for whether information in Minister Kuščević's declaration of assets is correct and whether his business affairs were legal, that should be determined by the relevant state institutions, Grabar-Kitarović told reporters, adding that she could not speak about the case but that any public office, especially those held by politicians, implied a sense of moral obligation.

"No one can be above the law or above the people. Apart from legal aspects, we must also be guided by moral principles. The matter is up to the minister's conscience and the prime minister's decision."

Asked if she expected a major government reshuffle, Grabar-Kitarović said that a reshuffle would definitely have to happen considering that Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić was leaving to take office as Secretary-General of the Council of Europe.

However, the timing and extent of the reshuffle can be decided only by the prime minister, she added.

Asked about reports mentioning PM Plenković as a candidate for the post of European Council President, Grabar-Kitarović said that that showed that Croatia's foreign policy rating had improved in the last three years.

"I'm glad to hear that he is a candidate, I was glad when my name was mentioned (in a similar context), but I did not apply for any post and I did not hold any talks. I'm glad reporters recognise that Croatia does have politicians who can lead European institutions," she said.

When asked if she would run for a second term in office, Grabar-Kitarović replied "All in good time."

"I will not disappoint anyone who has supported me in Croatia, especially not the Croatian Democratic Union and its members, without whom I would have never been elected president," she said.

More news about President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Coalition Partner Demanding Minister Kuščević’s Resignation

ZAGREB, June 29, 2019 - The Croatian People's Party (HNS), which is the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) strategic partner in the incumbent coalition government, will ask Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to convene an emergency meeting of the coalition because it insists that Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević of the HDZ should step down but it could also propose a bigger reshuffle, the Vecernji List daily of Saturday reported.

The bigger reshuffle would include the resignation of Health Minister Milan Kujundžić and of Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, according to the daily.

The daily reports that this was confirmed to it by the HNS leadership and that Deputy Prime Minister Predrag Štromar of the HNS will present his party's demand regarding Kuščević at a news conference to be held on Sunday at Sveti Martin na Muri, where the HNS Main Committee and Presidency are to hold a meeting.

The HNS will ask that the coalition meeting be held as early as Monday.

The party does not want to speculate about Kuščević's possible criminal liability with regard to scandals that concern his amassing his wealth and buying, repurposing and selling land at the time when he was the mayor of a community on the island of Brač, but it believes that he should have stepped down due to moral and political responsibility because scandals related to him burden and harm the government, the daily says.

"... we insist on Kuščević's resignation, and as regards a bigger reshuffle, which we are also proposing, (PM) Plenković will be the one to decide," a source in the HNS leadership told Vecernji List.

The HNS believes that Žalac should leave over scandals in which she is implicated and that Kujundžić should step down due to poor results in the health sector.

Since PM Plenković does not want the success of Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić, who was elected Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and is to take office on September 15, to be linked to a possible government reshuffle, the question that arises is what the HNS will do if Plenković rejects its demand for Kuščević's replacement and whether in that case, it will leave the government.

"We believe that Plenković will opt for a reshuffle, and if he does not, everything is possible in the autumn," the HNS source said.

More news about Minister Kuščević can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Kuščević: Somebody Will Have to Be Held to Account for Lying

ZAGREB, June 27, 2019 - Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said on Thursday that media reports implicating him in a series of scandals are "fabrications, lies and manipulation" and that he was a target of orchestrated attacks, adding that somebody will have to be held to account for that.

Coming to Government House for a cabinet meeting, Minister Kuščević told briefly the press that today media outlets published again a series of fabrications, lies, manipulations, photomontage and ill-intentioned conclusions explaining that he had already provided necessary documentation and even final court verdicts to counter those claims.

According to some media reports the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) has launched a preliminary investigation following reports about Kuščević's sale of a commercial office space at Supetar on the island of Brač and other properties.

Kuščević said that he had become the target of those orchestrated targets for being a minister and the political secretary of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Commenting that the attacks were also an attempt to damage his integrity and do harm to his family, Kuščević said that "somebody will very soon be held to account for that."

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Opposition Parties Call for Public Administration Minister's Dismissal

ZAGREB, June 27, 2019 - Some of the opposition parties in the Croatian parliament on Wednesday called for the dismissal of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević over his failure to declare his property holdings.

Social Democratic Party MP Peđa Grbin said that this was not just about two properties which the minister failed to register, but that Kuščević was a government official who had created a system marred by nepotism and corruption.

"This is a politician who extracted real estate from companies that later ended up in bankruptcy, while he made millions out of them, or as much money as they owed before going bankrupt. This is a politician who changed urban development plans so that his family and friends could rake in a lot of money," Grbin said, calling on the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party to "protect the minimum of decency and sack Kuščević."

Nikola Grmoja of the MOST party also called for Kuščević's resignation. "In a normal country, a scandal like this would result in the minister's resignation, but not in Plenković's Croatia, because if he applied such criteria he would have to renounce half his ministers."

Asked to comment on this matter in an interview with Croatian Radio on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that all allegations in the media against his ministers refer to the time before they became members of his government. As for Kuščević and his failure to enter his property in the land register, Plenković said: "This is not good, but it is certainly not so huge that it could jeopardise his human and political integrity as a minister."

More news about the administration minister can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Plenković Stands by His Controversial Minister

ZAGREB, June 25, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that the whole "guilt" of Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević was actually his omission to enter his two properties in the local geodetic registry, and that since the very beginning his cabinet had been exposed to criticism orchestrated by "prompters".

"The fact that somebody has omitted to register two properties in the geodetic registry is omission. However, this omission does not have such proportions to make us question his (Kuščević's) political and human integrity," Plenković said, while responding to questions from the press after a wreath-laying ceremony on the occasion of Croatian Statehood Day.

Plenković said that he had talked lately with Kuščević about the recent developments and media reports, and insisted that arguments given by Kuščević and his declaration of assets show that Kuščević could only be blamed for failing to register the properties with the local geodetic office.

In this context, Plenković noted that Kuščević was the 10th minister from his cabinet who has become the target of some people whom he labelled as prompters who choose an opportune moment to disseminate information they find interesting to media in a bid to create an impression that there are problems.

"Those prompters have clear political intentions of causing destabilisation, destruction and collapse," the premier said adding that since the very beginning his cabinet has been faced with such attempts.

More news about administration minister’s affairs can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Virovitica Official Commits Suicide after Defrauding Town Budget?

ZAGREB, June 19, 2019 - A meeting of the town council of the northeastern town of Virovitica on Tuesday was marked by a heated debate on the latest developments following the suicide of the head of the town's administration department for the financial matters, Siniša Palm, after it was discovered that the town budget was defrauded of several million of kuna.

During the debate Mayor Ivica Kirin explained that the sum embezzled from the budget amounted to 17.5 million kuna (2.37 million euro) and that as soon as he was informed by the bank concerned about irregularities he immediately reacted.

Nevertheless, the opposition insisted on the mayor's resignation, and responding to their criticism, Kirin reiterated that the local budget was managed according to the ISO 9001 certificate and that each year, the local authorities were given the positive opinion from the Office of the State Auditor regarding the public finances.

Explaining that the money had been defrauded in the "so-called" interception of transfers before they were entered into the city's accounting books, and that accounts of a sport club also were involved in these dealings which included the fake documents, Kirin said that he could not divulge any more information about how the money had been defrauded because of the confidentiality of the ongoing investigation in the case.

The mayor said that security checks of commercial banks, tax administration and state authorities had failed.

Kirin said that he felt subjective responsibility for this case as he had allowed the employment of the late Palm after he had submitted his application for the job advertised by the town authorities, however, Kirin said that he had no objective accountability.

Palm, 37, disappeared on 31 May and he was found dead on 3 June, and the local prosecutorial authorities established that he had committed suicide.

During his address to the press after the council's meeting Kirin recalled the timeline of the events.

Kirin said that on 30 May, he had been informed by the bank of wrongdoing and that he had immediately checked the situation together with his associates. That day, the mayor got informed of the fact that the head of the town financial department had gambling problems.

In the morning of 31 May, Kirin went to the bank and later to the police to present the case, after that he ordered that Palm should be served with a notice stating that he is suspended.

According to media reports, Palm committed suicide after being suspected of embezzling money from the town budget.

More Virovitica news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

All Options Will Be Considered so Sanader Returns Illegal Gains

ZAGREB, May 25, 2019 - State Prosecutor Dražen Jelenić said on Friday the state would consider every available option to seize former prime minister Ivo Sanader's illegal gains following his conviction in the Planinska corruption case.

A part of the assets is still frozen and we as the state and the State Prosecutor's Office are interested in the execution of the final sentence, including the seizure of illegal gains, Jelenić told reporters, adding that it remained to be seen how much could be seized from the frozen assets or if another option would be chosen.

He said there was a 15-day deadline for voluntary payment, after which seizure deadlines started running, adding that it was difficult to say how much the whole thing could take.

"We'll see," Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said when asked if the assets could be returned within 15 days, adding that this was in the remit of the State Prosecutor's Office.

Asked if an investigation into leaks in the fake text messages case had given any results, Jelenić said the investigation was confidential.

Asked if Deputy Parliament Parliament Speaker Milijan Brkić and the other three suspects had been or would be interviewed, he reiterated that the investigation was confidential.

Asked about the Agrokor case and the fact that a financial evaluation that is key for completing the investigation into it was not completed this week, as had been announced, Jelenić said the accounting experts had apologised to the relevant prosecutor's office and said they would submit their findings as soon as possible.

More news about Ivo Sanader can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Croatia Will Request Extradition of Zdravko Mamić from Bosnia

ZAGREB, May 22, 2019 - The Croatian Justice Ministry will send Bosnia and Herzegovina a request for the extradition of former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić after the Osijek County Court forwards the necessary documentation to the justice ministry, Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of the inner cabinet.

The Osijek County Court on Tuesday upheld a new indictment which the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) filed against Mamić and six more people on the suspicion that they had defrauded Dinamo of 200 million kuna from 2004 to December 2015 when Mamić held a few executive posts in that Zagreb-based football club.

Asked about further steps in the case, Bošnjaković said that the Justice Ministry first had to obtain the extradition request and the relevant documentation from the Osijek court, after which the extradition request would be sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"After that, a Bosnia and Herzegovina court will decide if formal conditions for extradition have been met," Bošnjaković said, adding that the final decision would be made by the justice minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Asked if conditions for Mamić's extradition existed under an agreement Croatia had signed with Bosnia and Herzegovina to regulate the matter, Bošnjaković said that everything would be known once the ministry obtained the documentation and launched the procedure.

More news about Zdravko Mamić can be found in the Sports section.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

New Indictment Upheld against Zdravko Mamić for Embezzlement of Funds from Dinamo

ZAGREB, May 21, 2019 - Osijek County Court on Tuesday upheld a new indictment which the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) filed against Zdravko Mamić and six more people on suspicion of having defrauded Dinamo of 200 million kuna from 2004 to December 2015 when he had held a few executive posts in that Zagreb-based football club.

The latest indictment refers to Zdravko Mamić's brother and son – Zoran and Mario Mamić – as well as to a former Dinamo director, Damir Vrbanović, football manager Nikky Artur Vuksan and entrepreneurs Sandro Stipančić and Igor Krota.

Under that indictment, Zdravko Mamić and the other suspects are charged with having conspired, in the period from December 2004 to December 2015, to defraud Dinamo of more than 144 million kuna through fictitious contracts between Dinamo and several foreign companies and bills for the payment of non-existing services related to player transfers. Under those contracts, Dinamo was also obliged to pay an additional amount of 7.35 million euro or 55.8 million kuna.

The USKOK deputy chief, Sven Mišković, said today that, in compliance with their bilateral agreement on extraditions, Croatia would ask Bosnia and Herzegovina to hand over Mamić, who is on the run in that country after he was already sentenced to six and a half years in jail for embezzlement of funds from the club in another case.

As soon as the Supreme Court confirms the investigative custody, the procedure for lodging a request for Mamić's handover can start.

The preparatory hearing is to be scheduled within next two months.

More news about Zdravko Mamić can be found in the Sports section.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Sanader's Motion for Release from Investigative Custody Rejected

ZAGREB, May 18, 2019 - A Zagreb County Court panel of judges on Friday rejected a motion filed by the defence for former prime minister Ivo Sanader to release him from investigative custody in the so-called Planinska case.

In their motion, the defence argued that it had not been explained to their client why he was remanded in custody.

Speaking to reporters, defence attorney Jadranka Sloković announced they would file a constitutional complaint.

Sanader was remanded in custody on April 4 after the Supreme Court considered his appeal against the trial court verdict that sentenced him to four and a half years in prison and ordered him to pay back 15 million kuna (2 million euro).

According to unofficial information, the Supreme Court has increased his sentence to six years, and the ruling will be made public only after it has been delivered to the parties involved.

Apart from the former prime minister, the trial chamber in this case also convicted Mladen Mlinarević, for whom it established that he inflated the value of a building in Zagreb's Planinska Street owned by former HDZ MP and businessman Stjepan Fiolić, from whom the regional development ministry, led by former minister Petar Čobanković, purchased the property in 2009.

Čobanković made a plea bargain with the prosecution before the trial and was sentenced to one year in prison. He did not go to prison but did community service.

Mlinarević and Fiolić were each sentenced to one year's conditional imprisonment, which was later replaced with community service.

Fiolić admitted that he helped Sanader with the sale of the property based on a forged appraisal and that he brought 10 million kuna and another one million euros (approx. 17 million kuna in total) to Sanader's home in a cardboard box.

More news about former prime minister Ivo Sanader can be found in the Politics section.

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