Thursday, 18 July 2019

Supreme Court Upholds 40 Year Jail Term for Ex-Intelligence Officer Mustač

ZAGREB, July 18, 2019 - The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Velika Gorica County Court decision convicting a former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence official Zdravko Mustač to 40 years in prison for the 1983 murder of political emigrant Stjepan Đureković.

Mustač was tried and sentenced by the German Court to life in prison and Velika Gorica County Court translated the conviction to the Croatian system of 40 years in prison.

Mustač's defence attorney appealed the conviction and the Croatian Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. He will be probably transferred to a Croatian prison at the beginning of September.

Mustač, 77, was convicted along with another former intelligence agent, Josip Perković (74) who was extradited on July 11 to Croatia to serve the remainder of his 30-year jail term.

Perković and his one-time superior Mustač were handed over to Germany early in 2014 on the condition that after the trial they could serve their sentences in Croatia.

In August 2015, the relevant court in Munich sentenced them to life imprisonment for their roles in the murder of Croatian dissident Đureković in Wolfratshausen, outside Munich, in July 1983. Đureković was killed by as yet unidentified perpetrators.

More info about Croatia in Yugoslavia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Bosnian Justice Ministry Receives Croatia's Request for Mamić's Extradition

ZAGREB, June 15, 2019 - The Bosnian Justice Ministry on Friday received the Croatian Justice Ministry's request for the extradition of former Dinamo football club chief Zdravko Mamić and will forward it to the State Court to decide if there are grounds for the handover, Minister Josip Grubeša told Hina.

The request for the extradition of Croatia's most wanted fugitive will likely be delivered to the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday. Grubeša would not prejudge how the court would rule.

Croatia wants Mamić's extradition based on a second indictment upheld against him by the Osijek County Court. Croatia and BiH have an extradition agreement which went into force in 2012.

Mamić opposes the extradition. Earlier this week, after a warrant was issued for his arrest, the State Court ordered that his travel documents be seized and that he reports to the police station in Čitluk, but dismissed the request that he be placed in custody.

On May 21, the Osijek County Court upheld the second indictment which Croatia's USKOK anti-corruption office filed against Mamić and six others for defrauding Dinamo by 200 million kuna, ordering that he be placed in custody.

Last spring, the Osijek Municipal Court sentenced Mamić to 6.5 years in prison pending appeal. The day before the verdict was delivered, he took refuge at Medjugorje, BiH. He holds Croatian and Bosnian citizenship.

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

Friday, 7 June 2019

Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Fugitive Football Boss Zdravko Mamić

ZAGREB, June 7, 2019 - Osijek County Court on Friday ordered that a warrant be issued for the arrest of former Dinamo football club mogul Zdravko Mamić after the court on May 21 set investigative custody for Mamić, said source at the Osijek court which would send the necessary documentation to the Justice Ministry on Monday so that it could launch extradition proceedings against Mamić.

On May 21, the Osijek County Court upheld a second indictment which the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) filed against Mamić and six other people, charging them with defrauding Dinamo of 200 million kuna. Investigative custody was set for Mamić on the same day.

After a motion to exempt Osijek County Court president Zvonko Vrban from the case was rejected as unfounded, a decision was made to continue with the proceedings in line with the indictment, the court said.

On Monday, the court will deliver all the necessary documents to the Justice Ministry to launch extradition proceedings against Mamić, Osijek County Court spokesman Miroslav Rožac said.

Based on the first of USKOK's three indictments against Mamić, in June 2018 Mamić was convicted, pending appeal, to six and a half years in jail for siphoning around 116 million kuna from the football club.

Just before the verdict was handed down, Mamić, who also holds Bosnia and Herzegovina citizenship, fled to that country. He now lives in Medjugorje.

The second indictment against Mamić also covers his brother Zoran and son Mario Mamić, as well as former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović, football manager Nikky Arthur Vuksan and entrepreneurs Sandro Stipančić and Igor Krota.

Under that indictment, Mamić and the others 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 the contracts, Dinamo was obligated, without any grounds, to pay an additional amount of 7.35 million euro (55.8 million kuna).

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

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Court President Calls out Kolakušić for Sensationalist Claims about Corruption

ZAGREB, May 30, 2019 - The president of the Zagreb Commercial Court, Nino Radić, on Thursday dismissed claims by a former judge and recently elected member of the European Parliament, Mislav Kolakušić, who, he said, was continually and falsely accusing him on social networks and in media outlets of being a source of corruption in Croatia.

Radić rejected Kolakušić's claim that as court president he had personally allocated 7,113 cases to judges who were his yes-men.

Commenting on accusations of corruption in the allocation of cases at the Commercial Court, Radić said that they were false and "exceptionally sensationalist", as evidenced by a check that did not identify any breaches regarding the 7,113 cases.

He added that according to a Justice Ministry report, in the past three years only two, entirely legal cases of personally handing out files were identified at the Commercial Court - one was allocated following a request to that effect and the other case concerned the joining of two cases, for which Kolakušić personally signed the ruling.

Radić claims that Kolakšić is "aggressively publishing untruths in the media arena and disseminating them via social networks which he edits very professionally."

Radić believes that by constantly repeating lies, Kolakušić "influences public opinion and unfoundedly jeopardises and causes harm to the work of the Commercial Court and the court's president."

Radić notes that as the court's president, he is not allowed to make public appearances the way Kolakušić is and that unlike Kolakušić, he respects the rule of law in public communication, particularly the code of conduct of judges.

He adds that regardless of all this, he hopes that the MEP will protect Croatia's interests in the European Parliament conscientiously, with commitment and without saying lies.

More news about Mislav Kolakušić and his political career can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Perception of Judiciary in Croatia Lowest in EU

ZAGREB, April 27, 2019 - In terms of perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public, judiciary in Croatia scored worst among the European Union member states, although the country has made progress in reducing the length of proceedings and the backlog of cases, according to the latest EU Justice Scoreboard released in Brussels on Friday.

A Eurobarometer survey of the perception of judicial independence, which is included in the EU Justice Scoreboard, puts Croatia at the bottom of the ranking, given that 42% of those polled in the country believe that the situation concerning independence of the judiciary is fairly bad and 34% say it is very bad. A mere 4% believe that the perceived independence of the judicial system is very good and 14% believe that it is fairly good.

Respondents said that the main reason for this situation is interference or pressure from government and politicians (68%), and interference or pressure from economic or other specific interests (62%), whereas 42% think that the status and position of judges do not sufficiently guarantee their independence.

In terms of perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public, the second to last place is occupied by Slovakia with 24% of respondents there describing that segment as very bad and 36% as fairly bad.

In the lower part of the ranking are Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Romania.

On the other hand, as many as 47% of Danish respondents perceive the independence of their judiciary as very good, and 40% as fairly good, while merely 1% believe that it is very bad, and 5% that it is fairly bad.

Other EU members with better results in the perceived independence of the judiciary are Finland, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

In terms of the number of judges per 100 000 inhabitants, Croatia had 43.2 judges in 2017, as against 42.8 judges in 2010. Slovenia ranks second with 41.5 judges per 100,000 inhabitants and Luxembourg is third with 32.8 judges.

Since 2010 the number of backlog cases in Croatia has been cut by 30%. Time needed to resolve civil, commercial, administrative and other cases in Croatia was 114 days on average in 2017, as against 133 days in 2010.

After the presentation of this comparative overview of the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems in EU member states, Vera Jourova, the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said she was pleased to see that many countries continue to improve their judiciary.

"Sadly, some others are reversing the positive trends. There are still too many EU citizens who don't see their justice systems as independent and who are waiting too long for justice to be served," the commissioner said.

Since 2013, the EU Justice Scoreboard analyses three main elements of an effective justice system: efficiency, quality and independence. It is one of the tools in the EU's rule of law toolbox used by the Commission to monitor justice reforms undertaken by member states and feeds into the European Semester, according to information on the EC's website.

More news about judiciary in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

HDZ Deputy Leader Brkić Questioned as Suspect?

ZAGREB, April 14, 2019 - The Police Directorate said on Saturday that, as part of an investigation into the fake text messages case, other offences against computer systems, programmes and data were uncovered but that, due to confidentiality, it could not say more, so there is no confirmation of media reports that Milijan Brkić, vice president of the ruling HDZ party and parliament deputy speaker, was questioned as a suspect in those offences.

The media reported on Saturday that Brkić was questioned two days before for intercepting his wife's emails by using the services of Franjo Varga, a former Interior Ministry IT expert accused in the fake texts case.

The media said Brkić's brother Jozo was also accused in the interception case and that the police allegedly found out about it by examining the computers and documents seized in the case against Varga and Blaž Curić, former chauffeur of Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić and a close friend of Brkić. The USKOK anti-corruption office suspects Varga and Curić in the fake texts case of obstructing the collection of evidence and of aiding and abetting in the commission of said crime.

Commenting on the allegations late on Saturday, Brkić said in an SMS to Hina that it was a disgrace "what individuals have turned state institutions into," neither confirming nor denying that he is a suspect.

In February, after an indictment was filed in the fake texts case, Brkić said he was neither included nor mentioned in the indictment against Varga and Curić which the Osijek County Court upheld on March 18. After spending the maximum six months in investigative custody, Varga and Curić were released.

Prosecutors contend that Varga created fake text messages, including for former football mogul Zdravko Mamić, and that last September Curić warned Varga that he was under investigation.

After the affair came to light, the media claimed that Varga's services were also used by former HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko and Brkić, both of whom denied the accusations.

In late November, the media published details from Varga's deposition in which he talked about his relationship with Mamić and cooperation with Karamarko, Brkić, former presidential advisor Vlado Galić, and former Agrokor owner Ivica Todorić.

Brkić, Karamarko and Todorić were questioned as part of the investigation. Todorić was questioned due to suspicions that Varga was linked to SMS correspondence among an informal group that drew up a law on emergency management in strategically important companies dubbed Lex Agrokor.

More news about HDZ 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.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Controversial Presidential Pardon to Be Analysed

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Monday that he had ordered an analysis of the ministry's reports based on which President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović issued a pardon for Danko Seiter, who has been found guilty of economic crime and who is being prosecuted in another case for economic crime.

Bošnjaković said that at the time when the reports were compiled he was not at the helm of the Justice Ministry but that he had ordered that the reports be analysed.

"If the ministry's reports prove that (ministry officials) failed to perceive the fact that proceedings were under way against the person in question, we will react," Bošnjaković said.

Asked about a new pardon law, Bošnjaković said that his ministry had drafted a new proposal.

"We have defined most things and the bill will be put forward very soon... in the next 30 days," said the minister.

Commenting on her pardon for Seiter, who has been found guilty of economic crime in a case that also involved her campaign donor Nikola Hanzel and who is being prosecuted in another case for economic crime, Grabar-Kitarović said earlier in the day that she had not been aware that another case was under way against Seiter and that the Justice Ministry, which proposed that she pardon him, had not been aware of that either.

More news about the justice system in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 22 February 2019

EU Justice Commissioner Criticises Long Trials in Croatia

ZAGREB, February 22, 2019 - European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said in Zagreb on Friday that citizens' trust in the judiciary would not grow without court autonomy and that that the trust was undermined by excessively long trials in Croatia.

On the second day of her visit to Zagreb, Jourova addressed an international conference on the EU as a global leader in the rule of law, saying said that the rule of law and court autonomy were pillars of the European Union.

A functioning judiciary at the national as well as the European level makes citizens trust the judiciary, Jourova said at the conference, recalling some of the main complaints of Croatian citizens.

Croatians do not trust judicial institutions because trials take too long, she warned, adding that court autonomy was a precondition for restoring citizens' trust. Degradation of the judiciary takes a country further from democracy, she said. The public is not aware that degradation of the judiciary leads to a totalitarian regime, she said.

The Zagreb conference was held on the occasion of the establishment of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and was organised by the Zagreb School of Law and the European Commission Representation in Croatia.

In a dialogue with citizens, Jourova warned about differences in the perception of the rule of law among EU countries.

EU countries are different in their interpretation of the rule of law due to cultural and other reasons, she said.

Dialogues with citizens are a direct form of two-way communication between EU citizens and European Commission officials on a wide range of topics. They have been held throughout Europe since 2013.

Once a year the EC publishes an overview of the situation in the judiciary. The overview covers mainly civil and commercial cases as well as administrative proceedings, with focus on the three main elements of a functioning judiciary - efficiency, quality and autonomy.

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

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

HDZ Withdraws Ban on Members from Testifying in Court

ZAGREB, February 12, 2019 - The chairman of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) committee on information, IT, media and digital society and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's national security adviser, Robert Kopal, said on Tuesday that he did not take part in writing even one sentence of a controversial statement of confidentiality, adding that the statement sent to members did not reflect the party's stance and was sent as a result of "internal discrepancies."

HDZ sent its members a statement of confidentiality which, if they were to sign it, would oblige them to never disclose any information about the party without prior approval. The statement, among other things, noted the obligation not to disclose any information even before a court, which is contrary to the Criminal Procedure Act.

Responsibility for the wording of the confidentiality statement lies with the company hired by HDZ – Apicura Business Intelligence, which has subsequently said that it will alter the statement.

Kopal told reporters that HDZ did not take part in writing even one sentence of the statement nor does the statement in any way express the party's stance and opinion. "The statement is considered to be null and void. Members have absolutely no obligation under that statement. It was compiled by the company with which a contract was signed to support us and to monitor the process of alignment with the European directive and all relevant regulations regarding data protection. A new statement will be drawn up," Kopal said.

Asked how it was possible that the statement was sent to the party's members, Kopal said that was due to "internal discrepancies," and as far as responsibility for that mistake is concerned, "it will be resolved internally."

"A lack of coordination occurred at the lower levels," Kopal added and expressed regret that the incident occurred. "We will fix that and correct it," he added.

Asked why no one in the party's leadership read the statement before it was sent to the party's members, Kopal said that "if the party's leadership had to read every paper it planned to send and announce, that would lead to a problem in the party's leadership."

He claimed that no one from HDZ was involved in writing the statement and said that possible consequences could arise regarding further cooperation with the Apicura Business Intelligence company.

"Various consequences are possible, like cancelling the contract. However, for now we have called for urgent changes and we want to see a statement that truly reflects the HDZ's stance and opinion and complies with the directive," Kopal underlined.

Apicura Business Intelligence was selected because it has certain references in that area and several certificates of information security. It assists companies in adapting to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Kopal added that the company had expressed its regret for this mistake. "They simply applied corporate rules to democratic rules, which is unacceptable," Kopal underlined.

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

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