Wednesday, 7 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: "Decision to Return Child to Biological Family Was Bad"

ZAGREB, 7 April, 2021 - PM Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday, in a comment on the death of a 2.5-year-old girl caused by domestic violence, that the decision to return the child to its biological family was bad and that those who made it should bear the consequences, noting that social care did not require a separate ministry.

"I don't know why the proposal to separate social care from the 'mega-ministry' is being made," Plenković told reporters in the parliament.

He recalled that in 2013, during the term of the Zoran Milanović government, a case similar to the last one happened in Slavonski Brod, and at the time there was a separate ministry of social care.

When they lack arguments, people make banal, nonsensical statements, Plenković said, adding that Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović was capable of heading the ministry because the ministry had its services, directors, state secretaries and social welfare centres across Croatia.

"In this specific case with a fatal outcome, the assessment and decision to return the little girl to her biological family was a bad one and for that kind of professional mistake responsibility lies with those who make it," he said.

Plenković went on to say that since the case of an incident on Pag Island in 2019, when a father threw his four underage children from the first-storey balcony of his house, a lot had changed in the social care system.

"During the terms of ministers (Nada) Murganić, (Vesna) Bedeković and now Minister Aladrović, we have worked to strengthen the system of social care. We have worked to raise social workers' wages as well as standards of physical and technical security, so now welfare centres have guards," he said.

The government has increased outlays for social care and allowances and it expects the system to function better and to the benefit of children, he said.

Unfortunately, there are problems, there are dysfunctional families, horrible things are done by biological parents but they will all answer for their actions in a legal procedure, Plenković said, adding that he was appalled and extremely saddened by the latest case.

Speaking of illogical provisions in the foster care law, adopted by his government, Plenković said that every legal solution could be improved.

It is important to speed up foster care procedures and that all children who live in environments that are not appropriate and not safe find a safe place to live. We will improve the law. There is always something to improve, he said.

AstraZeneca vaccine

Plenković also talked about a decision the European Medicines Agency is expected to make on the age groups for which the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is acceptable.

He said he would meet today with Health Minister Vili Beroš and the directors of the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Croatian agency for medicinal products to discuss the information they had, and that later today Beroš would participate in a video conference of EU health ministers.

"The most important thing is that the member states' ministers of health have a consolidated position, whatever the EMA's recommendation, and that there are no different practices. Different practices undermine the reputation of a vaccine, whatever its quality, which has happened with AstraZeneca from the start, unfortunately."

Plenković said the confusion about that vaccine had resulted in some people refusing it, which was not pleasant either for the company or anyone involved in vaccination.

He also responded to criticism that he had promised that a majority of the Croatian population would be vaccinated by spring yet had now postponed this until July.

He said AstraZeneca had promised to deliver 120 million doses to the EU in the first quarter but delivered 30 million. Croatia was to have received 1.7 million doses by 31 March and vaccinated more than 800,000 people, he added.

Plenković said 600,000 doses had been delivered and that 2.6 million would be by 30 June, adding that the government was working on having other vaccines available in case of more problems with AstraZeneca.

"Had we ordered 100% from each company and paid for 25 million doses, then all questions would have been - whose money are we spending and why are we buying three or four times as many doses as we need?"

He said an unforeseen thing had happened, not with a no-name company but one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Central bank governor, fighter jets, former JANAF CEO's arrest

Asked if he had known about central bank governor Boris Vujčić's correspondence with representatives of the Knighthead fund concerning the Agrokor conglomerate, Plenković said the question should be put to Vujčić.

Speaking of the procurement of fighter jets, he said consultations were under way and that a decision would be made in time. All offers are valid and we'll take some more time to decide, he added.

Asked to comment on the new arrest of Dragan Kovačević, former CEO of the JANAF oil pipeline operator, Plenković said everything about it should be said by the USKOK anti-corruption office and the State Attorney's Office.

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Friday, 23 October 2020

SDP MP Grgic, Suspect in JANAF Corruption Case, Resigns as Mayor

ZAGREB, October 23, 2020 - Social Democratic Party MP Vinko Grgic, who is in custody for involvement in the JANAF corruption case, resigned as Nova Gradiska mayor and is no longer in that office as of today, his deputy Borislav Vidosic said on Friday, Nova Gradiska radio reported.

Grgic has been in custody since September 18 due to his involvement in a case in which the chairman of the board of oil pipeline operator JANAF, Dragan Kovacevic, is under investigation for taking a HRK 1.96 million bribe in exchange for contracts in which JANAF is investing.

Vidosic will serve as mayor until local elections next May.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

SDP Again Calls on HDZ to Support Establishment of JANAF Inquiry Commission

ZAGREB, October 11, 2020 - Social Democratic Party president Pedja Grbin on Sunday once again called on the ruling HDZ to support the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the JANAF oil pipeline operator corruption affair.

The SDP is very clearly appealing to the HDZ, if there is something in the motion for the establishment of the commission of inquiry that doesn't suit you, tell us, we'll sit down and talk, and amend it if necessary, Grbin said in Velika Gorica.

Don't hide behind technicalities to stop what is crucial for Croatia at the moment, which is, let's take measures so that we can find out what is happening with our investigations, where there is political pressure, why information is leaking, and let's create a framework to prevent that, he added.

Grbin said he was visiting Velika Gorica to make a clear statement about the fight against corruption because it best illustrated how corruption developed, from utility companies to the town given that the mayor, Dragan Barisic of the HDZ, was in custody.

Barisic is one of 14 people in the JANAF affair whom the USKOK anti-corruption office is investigating for influence peddling, bribery and abuse of office.

Grbin also said the SDP had started preparing for the May 2021 local elections.

Friday, 9 October 2020

One More Suspect in Janaf Scandal Released from Custody

ZAGREB, October 8, 2020 - Mirjana Prodan, a close associate of Kreso Peterk, the main suspect in the Janaf scandal, has been released after some more arguments were added to her defence evidence, Zagreb County Court told Hina on Friday.

Prodan is suspected that she, Petek and Velika Gorica Mayor Drazen Barisic (HDZ) conspired to rig a tender for a water purifying project in Velika Gorica so it could be awarded to Petek's Elektrocentar company. The project was valued at HRK 97 million while Petek won the contract for a value of HRK 148 million.

The director of the water supply company in Velika Gorica, Tomislav Jelisavec and the head of that EU-funded project Katarina Gasparac were previously released. Jelisavec, Gasparac and the director of the Solarne Tehnologije company Zvonko Maras have admitted being guilty of the charges. Maras's company was in partnership with Petek's Elektrocentar.


14 suspects under investigation

Gasparac has allegedly told Uskok that Jelisavec insisted that the tender be approved for the agreed price so that local authorities and the town's utility company would not be under any pressure. Gasparac also allegedly told investigators that Jelisavec insisted that the tender documentations should be prepared by Marijana Prodan.

According to the Telegram news portal, a recording of a conversation between Katarina Gasparac, indicates that she at first did not wish to participate in the tender and agreed, only after Jelisavec insisted. Both were arrested in the investigation on the grounds that they could influence witnesses.

Close sources have informed that another four suspects are prepared to admit their guilt in the scandal.

Uskok launched the investigation into a total of 14 people  suspected of influence peddling, bribery, abuse of office, and aiding and abetting in these crimes and those are the owner of the Elektropromet Kreso Petek, former Janaf CEO  Dragan Kovacevic, Velika Gorica Mayor Barisic and Nova Gradiska Mayor Vinko Grgic of the SDP,  Jelisavec, Gasparac, Maras, Prodan, Vlado Zoric, Damir Vrbanc, Vatroslav Sablic, Iva Suler, Ljubomir Perusic and Goran Puklin.

In the meantime Mirela Aleric Puklin asked to be relieved of duties as a deputy state prosecutor  in the Zagreb office, after her husband Goran was accused of hiding HRK 4.5 million of illegally gained money that belonged to Dragan Kovacevic.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Interior Minister, Police Director Talk Information Leaks, Surveillance Breaches

ZAGREB, Sept 29, 2020 - Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said on Tuesday that parliamentary Domestic Policy and National Security Committee chair Niksa Vukas would receive a report on information leaks and that he could always contact the ministry and the police.

Speaking to the press, Bozinovic said Vukas "can ask and will receive an answer, probably to the effect that DORH (State Prosecutor's Office) and the police are conducting preliminary investigations. They are doing that and they will inform the public about the results."

Vukas said this morning that he would request Bozinovic's comment on the situation in the system, surveillance breaches and information leaks, and that next week he would convene the Domestic Policy and National Security Committee over the JANAF corruption case.

Surveillance breaches are not good

Asked if he was concerned about surveillance breaches in big cases and if anything had been identified in that regard in the case of former state secretary Josipa Rimac, Bozinovic said that it was not good that those breaches were occurring.

"However, as far as I know, DORH is conducting preliminary investigations in coordination with the police which are aimed at uncovering the reasons and those who are illegally involved in surveillance breaches."

The most important part of the criminal investigation, which is conducted by the police in cooperation with DORH and USKOK (anti-corruption office), was finished and charges have been filed, which means that they collected enough evidence, Bozinovic said.

"This isn't good, of course. However, DORH and the police are working on it and I'm sure they will inform us when they have some results."

Asked if the police were powerless about surveillance breaches, the minister said all criminal investigations were long, painstaking, and uncertain.

"When several months pass and result in the collection of enough evidence, it means... that a good job was done and that it was done as the law stipulates, which means keeping preliminary investigations secret."

Emergency services are working

Bozinovic also commented on the HT telecom's technical difficulties today due to which it is not possible to get 112, the number for emergency services.

"I'm sure someone will say what happened. When it comes to key communications and the communications of all emergency services, that shouldn't be a problem as they all have their own line of communication, their own means of communication when it comes to civil protection services," he said, voicing confidence that the system was working.

That was financed with European money and the Interior Ministry has made sure that those communications, based on TETRA devices, work in all emergency services, he added.

Police intensively working on finding those responsible for information leaks

Police Director Nikola Milina told the press the police were intensively working on finding those responsible for leaking police information while simultaneously working on the prevention of information leaks.

He said they reported police officers for information leaks in 15 cases over the past two years.

Commenting on surveillance breaches in the cases of Rimac and the recently arrested director of the JANAF oil pipeline operator, Dragan Kovacevic, Milina said the police "are intensively working on those cases... We are the least interested in having surveillance breached. However, each case is different."

He said that in both cases the police pressed charges on suspicion that a number of persons had committed various white collar and corruption crimes.

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Saturday, 26 September 2020

President Milanovic Says will Discuss JANAF Case with PM

ZAGREB, Sept 26, 2020  - President Zoran Milanovic said on Saturday in Pregrada that the solution to the JANAF case should be control, responsibility and cooperation in line with the Constitution and that he would meet with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to discuss the case.

The Prime Minister and his associates have spoken about the new scandal merely at the level of slogans from communist political schools, he said.

"That is not enough. He and I can consider the issue together, we can convene the National Security Council. I have also thought about that, but I am not sure that would bear fruit given the legal composition of the council and the role of some of its members," he added.

Milanovic said that a topic he and PM Andrej Plenkovic could discuss was how investigative bodies were acting. He also said that the leaking of information related to the investigation in the JANAF case constituted not only a violation of the rules under which an investigation was not a public matter but also a violation of basic moral principles.

One must be able to trust the government, Plenkovic cannot run away from responsibility

"One has to be able to trust someone at the top of the chain of command, first of all in the Croatian government. That is the prime minister and he cannot run away from responsibility," Milanovic said.

Asked whether he considered it strange that a man who had been a director for about 15 years, but whose salary had not been that large, owned a private club, Milanovic said that he did not because it was a small space of 30 square meters, and Dragan Kovacevic was not the only owner.

I was there several times, accompanied by a small number of people, he added.

As for his visits to the club during the lockdown, Milanovic said he had met there with the head of the national COVID-19 response team for practical reasons.

"Because that was during the lockdown and because a friend from Dalmatia called me who had a lot of food he would have otherwise thrown away because he had no one to give it to, we met there because it was more practical," he said, adding that this was "such a silly topic."

Asked whether he should have been informed that he was socialising with a man who was under investigation, the President responded with a counterquestion -- who would have informed him about it.

"SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency) does not have that kind of information because it does not take part in stealing money from public companies and it cannot have such information. It is one thing to be cordial to someone and that is a question of my responsibility and my judgement, but if I am in a situation to evaluate someone, to appoint them, then I have a different kind of information, but SOA is not connected to that," he added.

Asked how the case should end, Milanovic said that the solution to it was in control, responsibility, and cooperation in line with the Constitution, as well as in the separation of powers because, he added, everything was prescribed in a clear way.

Office: President to meet with PM

President Milanovic's office said in a statement later in the day that Milanovic would discuss the JANAF case and the functioning of state institutions with PM Plenkovic.

Speaking to reporters during his visit to Pregrada, Milanovic said that the topic of ambassadors which Plenkovic wanted to discuss with him would be "a topic of secondary importance (at the meeting), while the real topic will be the way this country functions."

"... It is important to discuss how this state functions, to finally see what the prime minister knows," Milanovic said.

"For months his ministers had put themselves in a situation to compromise themselves, quite unnecessarily. Someone should have known about and prevented that. Not to mention damage to JANAF. That is a topic for discussion between the prime minister and myself because we represent the state authorities, he has greater powers than I do and that is why I will adapt to his schedule. Speaking of the principle of separation of powers, there is also the principle of cooperation between state institutions. One has to be able to trust someone... at the top of the chain of command, primarily in the government. That person is the prime minister and he cannot run away from responsibility," said Milanovic.

He noted that the prime minister had told him that they had to meet.

"I do not have the last say here, he does, but I will not stop talking. This is simply a test which has shown that Croatia has a problem," Milanovic said as cited by his office.

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