Friday, 12 April 2019

Court Hears New Corruption Allegations Against Sanader

ZAGREB, April 12, 2019 - Robert Ježić, the USKOK anti-corruption office's key witness against former prime minister and HDZ president Ivo Sanader in the INA-MOL case, said on Thursday he paid 250,000 euro in 2010 for Sanader's travel expenses at his request as well as the rental of a flat and office space in New York for Sanader's daughter's then boyfriend.

"We entered that expense as expenses for the project of opening our office in New York. The bills were paid by my company ABC Holding, the same company used to buy a bullet-proof BMW for the HDZ," Ježić told the Zagreb County Court, adding that he had documents proving that and that he would submit them at the next hearing.

Ježić said he also paid for many expensive lunches and dinners. Asked why he did not mention this earlier, he said nobody asked him.

Speaking of previously unknown aspects of expense payments, he said that "according to the interrogations so far, it seems that Sanader didn't get anything." "Well, I didn't get anything," Sanader responded, prompting Ježić to ask him, "Then who did?"

The new information on the payment of Sanader's expenses came up after Ježić answered questions by William Boyce, defence counsel for Zsolt Hernadi, CEO of Hungary's MOL energy group. Boyce asked Ježić about the payment of a bribe so that MOL could obtain controlling rights in its Croatian peer INA.

The former prime minister is on trial for taking and Hernadi for giving said 10 million euro bribe via a company owned by Ježić. Hernadi is unavailable to Croatian authorities. This retrial began on 23 October 2018, when Sanader dismissed all the charges, just as he did in the first trial, when Hernadi was not a defendant yet.

Aside from the bribe, USKOK accused Sanader and Hernadi or arranging the divestiture of INA's unprofitable gas business. USKOK demands that the former prime minister, if convicted, pay 10 million euro into the state budget.

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

Friday, 5 April 2019

HDZ Distances Itself from Sanader Verdict

ZAGREB, April 5, 2019 - The speaker of the Croatian parliament and secretary-general of the ruling HDZ party, Gordan Jandroković, said on Friday that the Supreme Court conviction of former prime minister Ivo Sanader to six years' imprisonment was proof that the judiciary was impartial and that no one was above the law.

Asked by the press in Zagreb if the ruling was a burden on the HDZ, Jandroković said: "It would be better if there was no such ruling, but I repeat, it is a sentence against one person."

Speaking to reporters during a visit to the eastern city of Osijek, Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said that the sentence was imposed on Sanader as an individual and that it should not be confused with his role as prime minister or the party which he led at the time.

Asked to comment on the claim by Sanader's defence counsel that they had learned of the Supreme Court ruling from the media, Bošnjaković said that he could not comment and that the question should be addressed to the Supreme Court, "which delivered its judgment to the Zagreb County Court, which handed down the first-instance ruling and whose task was to forward the judgment to the State Attorney's Office and the accused."

He added that it was hard for him to say how it happened that media learned of the ruling before one of the parties to the case because he did not know all the facts.

More news on HDZ can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Sanader in Prison, Sentenced to More Than Five Years

ZAGREB, April 4, 2019 - The Zagreb County Court on Thursday confirmed that it had issued a warrant to take former prime minister and HDZ party leader Ivo Sanader into custody after the Supreme Court increased his sentence in a case dubbed "Planinska" to more than five years.

"We have received the Supreme Court's decision to set investigative custody for Sanader because his sentence lasts more than five years, in which case mandatory investigative detention is set," said County Court spokesman Kresimir Devčić.

He added that following the Supreme Court's ruling, the Zagreb County Court issued a warrant for police to take Sanader into custody.

This means that police will look for Sanader at his address, in Zagreb's Kozarčeva Street, and that, if he is not found there, a warrant will be issued for his arrest.

Devčić said that the Supreme Court decision did not specify the duration of sentence, only that it was longer than five years.

The Supreme Court on Thursday completed its three-day deliberation on appeals against the trial court ruling in this case, in which Sanader was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for taking a kickback in the amount of 10 million kuna and one million euros and defrauding the state budget in the amount of 15 million kuna.

According to unofficial information, the Supreme Court has increased his sentence to six years.

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.

Sanader was ordered to give back the 17 million kuna while the 15 million kuna difference between the actual and the appraised value of the property in question was to be compensated jointly by Sanader and Fiolić and his two companies. Fiolić's companies were fined 120,000 kuna.

The former prime minister rejected the accusations, saying that investigators had blackmailed his co-accused. Mlinarević, too, denied the charges.

The trial in the Planinska case lasted from April 2013 to April 2018 and was frequently adjourned due to Sanader's health condition.

Sanader had a series of corruption indictments issued against him.

He was released from custody after the Constitutional Court in 2015 quashed a sentence against him for war profiteering in the Hypo case and for taking a bribe from the Hungarian energy group MOL, ordering a retrial at the Zagreb County Court.

The Supreme Court then quashed a non-final verdict and ordered a retrial in the Fimi Media case in which Sanader and his former party, the HDZ, were convicted for corruption. These proceedings are still underway.

In October 2018, Sanader was sentenced pending appeal to two and half years in prison in the Hypo case and was acquitted of the charges in the HEP-Dioki trial, pending appeal.

Sanader was arrested at his home shortly after 5 pm.

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

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Živi Zid for Including Family's Assets in Politicians’ Assets Declaration

ZAGREB, March 23, 2019 - The opposition Živi Zid party said on Saturday that, following recent scandals involving Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Zalac, the party would forward into parliamentary procedure on Monday a bill of amendments to the Conflict of Interest Act under which every office holder would have to declare the assets of their immediate family, aside from their own.

" Živi Zid absolutely believes Minister Žalac must go. Prime Minister Plenković is proving his incompetence on a daily basis with the ministers he chooses and the fact that there is no person in the government that isn't involved in a scandal or that does their job responsibly," party president Ivan Sinčić said at a press conference.

"No one must ever again get into politics for their own interests but only and exclusively for the common good and the interests of society as a whole," the party said regarding the bill of amendments.

More news on the Živi Zid party can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Minister Žalac Has “Insinuations” that Someone is Setting Her Up

ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 - Regional Development and European Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac said on Wednesday that a media lynching campaign was launched against her, and that she had insinuations that someone was setting her up, refusing to reveal any details at this moment, saying only that this could also be part of intra party conflicts.

"After the experience over the past ten days, I would absolutely say that someone is setting me up. I have some sort of insinuations," Žalac told Nova TV commercial television, adding that she suspected this was an intra-party conflict.

She declined to speak about possible reasons behind this, stressing she would refrain from it because of the latest developments which included smearing her as the minister, member of the government, her family and even involving her children.

Žalac said she did not know what the true problem was. "I have some insinuations, evidence, so when the time comes, we will talk about it. I do not know whose way I am standing in, but things are a bit clearer now. I will not say anything yet," Žalac said.

She said she was prepared to submit to the Conflict of Interest Commission receipts for leasing the luxury Mercedes parked in the front yard of hr family home in Vinkovci, worth at least 50,000 euro and owned by a company leasing luxury vehicles. The minister did not include the car in her declaration of assets. Žalac claims her mother was covering the costs of the monthly lease, under a contract that was signed to a period of one year.

Commenting on a statement by Social Democratic Party (SDP) member of the Croatian parliament Gordan Maras who said earlier on Wednesday the problem is that Josip Stojanović Jolly, the owner of the company who leased the car to the minister's parents, has been awarded a loan by the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) on whose supervisory board the minister sits.

Žalac said she knew Stojnovic, declining however that she had done any favours for him. She said that when HBOR granted a loan to Stojanović, she SDP was the ruling party and that she was not a member of the HBOR Board at the time.

Stojanović said on Wednesday that Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac had nothing to do with a Mercedes owned by his company, announcing that he would sue MP Gordan Maras of the opposition SDP party for saying that he had been awarded a loan from the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) on whose supervisory board the minister sits.

"The car is owned by our car rental company and Minister Žalac has nothing to do with it. Had the minister bought the Mercedes in question, I would certainly have known about it. Until a while ago I didn't even know who has rented it, and that is Mrs Vinka Ivanković, probably the minister's mother," Stojanović told reporters in Dugopolje, near the southern coastal city of Split.

Responding to questions from the press, he said that the rental agreement was signed on 18 January 2019. He produced a copy of the agreement, but would not discuss its content, citing the confidentiality rules of the Mercedes company.

Asked how the minister could authorise him to show the agreement to the press if she had nothing to do with it, Stojanović said: "You should ask her and her mum."

SDP MP Maras said earlier in the day that the problem was that Stojanovic had been granted a loan by the HBOR on whose supervisory board the minister sits.

Commenting on his statement, Stojanović said that he would sue Maras because what he said was not true. He said that Minister Žalac was not the chair of the HBOR supervisory board at the time. "Mr Maras is uninformed. We did take a loan from the HBOR, but we repaid it before using it because it was unfavourable to us, and commercial banks gave us more favourable terms," Stojanović said.

Asked if he saw anything disputable about the fact that his company had won a tender for the purchase of 20 buses for Split's Promet municipal transport company, which will be financed with EU funding, meaning through the ministry headed by Žalac, Stojanović replied in the negative. "We responded to the tender because we cover the area stretching from Dubrovnik to Gospić, and we offered the most favourable terms," Stojanović said.

The news website said on Wednesday that last October Žalac signed an agreement for the purchase of new buses for the Promet company with EU funding; the project is worth 44 million kuna (6 million euro). It was formally announced on March 8 that the Jolly Autoline company, owned by Josip Stojanović, had won the tender, the website said.

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

Monday, 18 March 2019

Trial in Fake Text Messages Scandal to Start in About Two Months

ZAGREB, March 18, 2019 - The trial of Franjo Varga, a former IT specialist at the Ministry of the Interior, and Blaž Curić, a former driver at the Ministry of Agriculture, for obstruction of evidence in the so-called "fake text messages" scandal could start in about two months, Osijek County Court spokesman Miroslav Rožac told the press after the indictment against the two was upheld on Monday.

Rožac said that the ruling upholding the indictment was not subject to appeal and that the two accused would be released from investigative custody because the maximum six-month time limit for holding suspects in investigative detention had run out.

Asked by the press when the trial would start, Rožac said that that could happen "in about two months", after the ruling suspending investigative custody becomes final after the appeal process.

Defence lawyer Mario Poljak said that Varga and Curić would be released on Monday.

The USKOK anti-corruption office alleges that Varga created fake text messages "between senior state officials and other persons in Croatia" to obstruct evidence in the trial of former football mogul Zdravko Mamić before the Osijek County Court and in the extradition trial of the former owner of the Agrokor food and retail conglomerate Ivica Todorić before a court in London.

According to the prosecution, the false correspondence was meant to show that certain state officials agreed unwarranted prosecution of the persons in question and that certain judicial officials were exerting pressure on other judicial officials to convict those people without evidence.

Curić allegedly provided Varga with information such as telephone numbers for state officials and other persons.

More news about the fake taxt messages scandal can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Court Upholds Indictment Against Former PM Milanović’s Chief-of-Staff

ZAGREB, March 14 (Hina) - The Zagreb County Court on Thursday upheld an indictment against Tomislav Saucha, former chief-of-staff of prime minister Zoran Milanović, who was in office from 2011 to 2016, and his secretary Sandra Zeljko, which charges them with claiming false travel expenses.

Saucha and Zeljko are charged with having made false travel expenses during his term as PM Zoran Milanovic's chief-of-staff, with Zeljko having continued to do so after Saucha left the post. They thus defrauded the state budget of around one million kuna (approx. 135,000 euro).

Prosecutor Krešimir Ostrogonac said that the two were charged with abuse of office and forgery of official documents and with aiding and abetting in abuse of office and forgery of official documents. He added that some 50 witnesses were expected to testify during the trial, including former chiefs-of-staff of the prime minister, Neven Zelić and Davor Božinović, who succeeded Saucha in that post.

Since Saucha showed up in court today and Zeljko did not, the prosecutor told reporters that she was reportedly receiving medical treatment.

A decision on whether she is fit to stand trial will be made at the first hearing, which is expected to be held in a few months' time.

Asked about the authenticity of his signatures on the contentious travel expense claims, Saucha repeated that the signatures were not his. His attorney Darko Marzić said that evaluations by expert witnesses in the case were of poor quality, that his client was dysgraphic and that that would help their case.

The investigation in the case was launched initially only against Saucha, at the time a Social Democrat member of parliament, and was later expanded to include Zeljko, who at the beginning was the main witness.

The investigation became final as late as August 2017 when the Zagreb County Court accepted the prosecution's appeal against a decision by the investigating judge in the case who ruled that the motion to expand the investigation was not in line with the law.

The prosecution's motion that the investigation be expanded was first denied after Saucha, as a member of parliament, tipped the scales in favour of Finance Minister Zdravko Marić in a vote on an opposition motion for his replacement which he previously signed. Saucha dismissed claims that his support for Marić had been bought, saying that he changed his mind so that a new parliamentary election was avoided.

More news on the Saucha case can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

New Indictment Issued against ex-Dinamo Boss Zdravko Mamić for Embezzlement

ZAGREB, February 21, 2019 - The Zagreb county office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) on Thursday filed a new indictment before Osijek County Court against Zdravko Mamić on suspicion of having defrauded Dinamo of 16.7 million kuna from 2002 to 2007, when he had performed several executive posts in that Zagreb-based football club.

The DORH office, which released the information about this indictment on its website earlier on Thursday, also recommends the joinder of this case with the ongoing proceedings against Mamić before the Osijek court.

Last June, the same court sentenced the former Dinamo football club boss and advisor to six and a half years in jail for embezzlement of funds from the club. His brother Zoran, former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović and tax official Milan Pernar were also found guilty of the charges made by the USKOK anti-corruption office.

Mamić et all were found guilty on all counts in the case of siphoning approximately 116 million kuna from the Dinamo club and defrauding the state budget of about 12.2 million kuna in unpaid taxes and surtaxes.

His brother Zoran was sentenced to four years and 11 months, while Pernar was sentenced to four years and two months, and Vrbanović was sentenced to three years.

None of the four accused turned up at that sentence-hearing session in Osijek. Since the non-final verdict was handed down, Mamić has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as he has dual citizenship and refuses to come back to Croatia to start serving the sentence.

More news on Zdravko Mamić can be found in the News section.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Former PM Ivo Sanader Corruption Trial Adjourned

ZAGREB, February 20, 2019 - The corruption trial of former prime minister Ivo Sanader and Zsolt Hernadi, CEO of the Hungarian energy company MOL, was adjourned at the Zagreb County Court on Tuesday due to Sanader's health after defence counsel were fined for contempt of presiding judge Maja Štampar Stipić.

Hernadi is beyond the reach of Croatian authorities.

Sanader's counsel Jadranka Sloković requested that the main hearing be adjourned until after it was established if he was fit to stand trial. The defendant said he could not be present for long testimonies for health reasons.

The questioning of witnesses was adjourned until February 25, by which time it will be determined if Sanader is fit to stand trial.

He suggested that a medical expert determine if he could be present at the hearings and for how long in a day. He made this suggestion "so as to avoid being crucified in public."

Due to raised voices and the insulting of presiding judge Maja Štampar Stipić, she fined Sloković and Hernadi's counsel Laura Valković 10,000 kuna.

The court heard Davor Štern, former director general and supervisory board chairman of INA, who said the Croatian energy company's poor business had almost bankrupted it in 2008.

Štern said that when he served as director general from 1997 to 2000, INA was Croatia's most important company and that "it remains so today."

Speaking of INA-MOL relations, he said MOL employees were part of INA's management and that they had more access to public data on INA than the Croats on the management board. "We were not at war with MOL but they didn't act friendly. We saw to the interests of INA's shareholders and the interests of the Croatian government, which appointed us to the supervisory board."

In the INA-MOL case, Sanader was convicted to 10 years in prison for taking a bribe from Hernadi, but the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to 8.5 years. The ruling was eventually quashed by the Constitutional Court.

The USKOK anti-corruption office accused Sanader of giving controlling rights in INA to MOL for EUR 10 million and of arranging with Hernadi the divesting of INA's unprofitable gas business.

More news on the corruption in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Sanader’s INA-MOL Corruption Trial Resumes

ZAGREB, February 18, 2019 - A Zagreb County Court panel on Monday dismissed a motion for their recusal filed by the defence of former prime minister Ivo Sanader in the INA-MOL corruption trial, in which the other defendant is Zsolt Hernadi, CEO of the Hungarian energy company MOL, who is beyond the reach of the Croatian authorities.

Panel president Maja Štampar Stipić also dismissed a motion to postpone today's hearing, filed by Sanader's new court-appointed attorney Nikola Drobac. Instead of three months he had requested to familiarise himself with the case, he was given one month.

The panel found that with their motions, the defence was trying to stall the trial.

Judge Stampar Stipic adjourned the previous hearing on February 8 because Sanader's counsel had not shown up and chose a lawyer for him, which Sanader called a gross violation of his constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms. Today he again claimed that the court's choosing a lawyer for him violated his minimum rights to a defence.

In the INA-MOL case, Sanader was already convicted to 10 years in prison for taking a bribe from Hernadi, but the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to 8.5 years. The ruling was eventually quashed by the Constitutional Court.

The USKOK anti-corruption office accused Sanader of giving controlling rights in Croatian energy company INA to MOL for EUR 10 million and of arranging with Hernadi the divesting of INA's unprofitable gas business.

Former INA supervisory board chair Davor Štern testified in court on Monday that the energy company's management was "only formal" and that its Hungarian peer MOL made all the decisions without seeing to INA's interests.

"INA's management was only formal because all decisions were made by the board of executive directors, and one could also hear that closing down the Sisak refinery was widely discussed already in the 2009 contract amendments. MOL had 44% ownership and practically made every decision, without seeing to INA's interests," said Stern.

More news on the INA-MOL case can be found in the Business section.

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