Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Opposition Slams Government for Agrokor Book Launch Spectacle

ZAGREB, October 30, 2018 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić wondered on Tuesday why former economy minister Martina Dalić and Agrokor's first emergency administrator Ante Ramljak had been dismissed if everything in the process of salvaging the conglomerate was orderly, clear and transparent, and added there was nothing more absurd than the fact that it was cronies who spoke about the collapse of crony capitalism at the presentation of Dalić's book, "Agrokor: The Collapse of Crony Capitalism."

"Yesterday, the Borg group celebration that they organised publicly was attended by the whole lot that Croatia has been suffering under for the past 27 years and who should be held responsible for why people are emigrating, why pensioners are living so hard, why wages are still exceptionally low in Croatia. While they were celebrating the way they came to wealth, workers in Konzum (retail chain in Agrokor) are still working for 2,900 kuna a month and that is the moral of this story," Bernardić said.

He recalled that Martina Dalić and Ante Ramljak stepped down. They were in fact replaced for siphoning money for consulting services which Plenković himself later admitted by replacing them and calling on the consultants to return that money. "Hence my question: if everything was in order, clear and transparent why did they have to leave then. Yesterday we were able to see an entire stream of people who in the 1990s participated in the criminal transition and privatisation, the effects of which citizens are still feeling today and we could see the participants in the Borg group, their friends and collaborators. The only person missing was the Chief State Attorney," SDP's leader said.

Referring to the establishment of a new parliamentary inquiry commission into Agrokor, Bernardić said that the "Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Plenković abolished the first Inquiry Commission, removed Dalija Orešković from the helm of the Conflict of Interest Commission and Dinko Cvitan from the position of chief state prosecutor."

"They are trying to remove anyone who stands in their way, who doesn't fit into their vision of the state, who aren't part of the cartel. Their public attempt to iron out Martina Dalić's image and the Borg group's public party, is an attempt to continue acting according to their usual model of selling off Croatia," Bernardić concluded.

GLAS: The book should have been entitled “The Victory of Crony Capitalism”

President of the GLAS party, Anka Mrak Taritaš said that the title of Dalić's book is not right and that it should have been entitled “The Victory of Crony Capitalism”. “I think the time has come for those in government to say that yesterday was a celebration of crony capitalism and that it be proclaimed a public holiday," Mrak Taritaš said.

"Yesterday was characterised by two things – everyone was at the book promotion and yesterday and today we are hearing about that book but everyone is forgetting two facts, one is that the entire process was non-transparent and the public was not involved and they are forgetting that people who made a fortune in that process had to leave," she said.

She called on the HDZ to allow the establishment of the new "Inquiry Commission into Agrokor and show their triumph to the very end, but that is what they are a bit afraid of."

HDZ: There's no way a new Agrokor inquiry commission will be set up

The chairman of the parliamentary group of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party Branko Bačić said on Tuesday there was no way that a new inquiry commission would be established to look into the so-called Hotmail affair, as was being demanded by the opposition led by the MOST party.

Speaking to the press in the parliament, Bačić said that a commission could not be formed because court proceedings had been launched in this case, adding that the USKOK anti-corruption body had examined the circumstances surrounding the scandal and dismissed the criminal complaint in question, filed by the Živi Zid party.

"It's not that we perhaps wouldn't want this commission, but it's because the law says so. The purpose of a commission would be to examine the circumstances that preceded the adoption of the law on emergency administration, including financial aspects, the accuracy of financial statements, the financial situation, the relationship with the public sector when it comes to the financing of Agrokor. And this was all included in the investigation that was upheld by the County Court, which has opened court proceedings," Bačić said.

The law on inquiry commissions says that a commission cannot be formed or must cease its work the moment court proceedings have been initiated, as was the case with the initial Agrokor inquiry commission, Bačić said. "USKOK has found no grounds for criminal liability when it comes to e-mail correspondence between members of the task force for Agrokor, which included a former deputy prime minister Martina Dalić. So there is no need, or legal possibility, for parliament to conduct an inquiry if that is being done by the judiciary," Bačić said.

The Hotmail affair concerns members of a mailing group involved in drafting the so-called Lex Agrokor bill, some of whom later became consultants in the restructuring of the indebted Agrokor food and retail conglomerate.

If you want to more about the Agrokor affair, click here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Zdravko Maric Unenthusiastic About Martina Dalic's Agrokor Book

In case you didn't know, Martina Dalic, the former deputy prime minister who spent a long time at Andrej Plenkovic's side, left her position earlier this year amid not only the Hotmail affair, in which she was sending highly sensitive emails via no less than Hotmail, but amid growing suspicion surrounding her in regard to the very messy Agrokor affair.

Now, despite the public's general opinion of her being less than sparkling and with all sorts of unsavoury suspicions and accusations about her involvement in Agrokor still flying around, left unanswered, Martina Dalic went ahead and published a book on Agrokor, causing raised eyebrows among many politicians, including MOST's leader Bozo Petrov, who was heavily involved in the Agrokor situation when it first came to light, especially given the fact that the crisis saw the former HDZ-MOST coalition collapse.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Tomislav Pili writes on the 30th of October, 2018, Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who felt the very personal unpleasantness of the Agrokor crisis on his own skin, stated quite bluntly that he didn't have any desire to comment on whether or not Martina Dalic should return to the government at all.

Marić used to work for Agrokor before taking up his position within the Croatian Government, this caused a lot of suspicion around him, too, as many across the political spectrum and in the general public failed to believe that he had no knowledge of the plethora of underhand deals and the threatening collapse of the company that eventually raised its ugly head in the spring of 2017. Despite the controversy, Maric stuck to his guns and held onto his position, with the situation eventually blowing over. Despite that, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that he'd prefer to avoid discussing Martina Dalic or her new book.

"I've got a good relationship with all the people I've worked with and am working with now, and if we have some disagreement, then we find a common language," the finance minister said briefly.

''I haven't read Martina Dalic's book and I don't know if I'll manage to,'' Maric added at the margins of Poslovni Dnevnik's conference. In response to a journalist's question as to whether everything worked well in regard to Agrokor's extraordinary administration, and why Martina Dalic had to leave, Maric expressed his lack of desire to comment on whether or not she should return to the government.

As for the dangers the Uljanik shipyard situation represents towards public debt, Maric said Uljanik's influence will of course have an effect on the overall fiscal policy outcome for this year.

"The only good thing about it is that it will have a one-off effect. From our side, we intend to solve [the situation] as soon as possible so as to avoid any further consequences. Nevertheless, by the end of the year, according to our projections and expectations, public debt will continue to decline,'' Maric emphasised.

"With regard to taking further steps, we can't influence the worsening global environment that much, but do we have certain mechanisms in our hands. I, as finance minister, am responsible for implementing fiscal policy. All we propose is a responsible, rational fiscal policy that suits all of the challenges we're facing. We're putting emphasis on a more stable public debt, but the basic idea of us all should be ​​economic growth, which will lead to stronger employment growth,'' Maric noted.

Journalists present at the conference in were also very interested in the disappearance of the so-called "mantra" about budget savings which has been being talking about a lot over recent years.

"I wouldn't say that is stopped. If you look at the structure of the expenditure side of the budget, the biggest item is the retirement expenditure. It's true that the issue of expenditure has been challenged more than once and we must not give up on that. We reduced interest costs by over two billion kuna, but we're still paying too much,'' Maric said.

Regarding retirement, the question of whether or not retirement benefits in the new Law on Croatian Defenders represent a budgetary burden arose, to which Maric responded that his ministry had looked into potential financial implications during the process of the adoption of the naw Law on Croatian Defenders.

"The Law on Croatian Defenders is fiscally viable and isn't an additional burden for the budget," Maric concluded.

Want to find out more about what exactly happened within Agrokor and learn more about Martina Dalic's role within it all? Click here and follow the news on Dalić, the Hotmail affair, the writing of Lex Agrokor, and more.


Click here for the original article by Tomislav Pili for Poslovni Dnevnik

Monday, 29 October 2018

Former Economy Minister Publishes Book on Agrokor Affair

ZAGREB, October 29, 2018 - Former economy minister Martina Dalić said on Monday there had been no intention of conspiracy or corruption in dealing with the crisis in the ailing Agrokor conglomerate. She was speaking at the launch of her book "Agrokor: The Collapse of Crony Capitalism".

Attending the launch were many politicians, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and several ministers, as well as business people, unionists and lawyers who participated in the preparation of a law dubbed Lex Agrokor.

Dalić said she wrote the book to explain what was happening when the government was faced with the crisis that broke out in the private food and retail conglomerate. "There were numerous lies in the public sphere by those who wanted the emergency administration process in Agrokor to fail."

The government would not lend Agrokor 300 million euro, she said, adding that there had been no Borg group, conspirators or corruption in the government. Borg was the nickname of an informal group of experts working on the law on extraordinary administration in companies of systemic importance, dubbed Lex Agrokor.

Workers did not protest outside the government, and the government did not provide collateral at taxpayers' expense, said Dalić. "I resigned over events that never happened. There was no secret group, but the government's stability was shaken because of emails that appeared in the public sphere. Although it was a set-up, the prime minister and I agreed that I should resign, although I'm not guilty of what I'm being accused of," she said.

The growing prospects of the success of the emergency administration triggered off more and more rumours and fabrications as well as lies spread in the public by those who wanted the administration to fail, she said, reiterating that no secret group had ever existed,

By refusing to give a loan of 300 million euro to Agrokor founder and owner Ivica Todorić, the government showed that there were no entrepreneurs who were given preferential treatment, and therefore this book is entitled "Agrokor: The Collapse of Crony Capitalism", she said.

As for controversies surrounding the process of salvaging Agrokor, Dalić cited the case of the Alix Partners consulting company that hired as subcontractors three companies whose owners or co-owners had participated in a task force that the government consulted during the outbreak of the crisis. Hiring those subcontractors caused harm to the credibility of the emergency administration process and raised moral and ethical questions which had not cropped up before, she said.

I am personally sure that during the whole process there were a lot of ambiguities and errors and things which both emergency administrators would do differently now if they started this process anew. But decisions are made in real time, and those decisions were adopted in extreme circumstances, particularly at the very start of the process, she said.

HNB Governor: Central bank started dealing with Agrokor issue in 2012

Addressing the event, Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić said that the HNB was the first to actively address the issue, already in 2012, and that in the end the whole Agrokor problem was solved with a settlement deal which was upheld this past Friday by the High Commercial Court.

In 2012, the HNB noticed that local banks were exposed to Agrokor to a level that exceeded the legislative frameworks.

He also warned that the amount of Agrokor's debt accounted for 7% of the national GDP, which was seven times more than in the case of the Italian Parmalat.

The real threat for the state budget would have been if banks had fallen victim to the Agrokor crisis due to excessive exposure, and in 2012 the HNB issued an injunction, demanding that 16 banks reduce their exposure to Agrokor, the governor recalled.

Ramljak: There was no Borg group

The former emergency administrator in Agrokor, Ante Ramljak, told reporters before the launch he read the parts of the book that were about him. "I think everyone involved in the most complex economic problem which happened in Croatia at that time can be proud of what they did and we can all be glad that there has been no major damage," he said in response to questions from the press.

Prime Minister Plenković was the first person who had to take care of the problem, Ramljak said, adding that questions about what happened later and why Dalić had to resign as economy minister should be addressed to her.

He would not answer questions about the Borg group and leaked emails, saying only that there had been no such group. I think those are fabrications, said Ramljak. He added, however, that he did send one email mentioning the group on Easter 2017 when he realised that they had rescued Agrokor with one financial injection. "I sent that email and the Borg group is mentioned only in that email."

He would not say what he thought of the president's and the prime minister's earlier calls that the consultants hired for Agrokor return their fees.

Ramljak became Agrokor's emergency administrator after the adoption of Lex Agrokor, which aimed to protect the sustainability of business operations of vital companies. The law was adopted on 6 April 2017. Of 131 lawmakers attending that session, 83 voted in favour, 46 were against and two abstained. He took over management on 10 April and was emergency administrator until late February 2018.

Škegro: The bulk of the media created scandals out of nothing

Former Finance Minister Borislav Škegro, answering reporters' questions before the launch, called out the bulk of the media for "creating scandals out of nothing, out of non-existent facts and lies." He said Dalić resigned as economy minister when she saw that her staying in office might endanger the ultimate goal, reaching a successful settlement for Agrokor. He said Agrokor creditors "fared much better" with the settlement that was eventually reached "than they would have in any alternative scenario."

Škegro said Dalić's book showed that Lex Agrokor had between 40 and 50 authors, including members of the MOST party, which was part of the ruling coalition at that time, and MPs. "What's important is that there were no scandals, no groups, no criminal organisation, no plan to steal," he said, adding that "nobody in their right mind would steal debts worth billions."

For more articles about the Agrokor affair which almost brought down the government and the economy, click here.

Monday, 29 October 2018

MOST Leader Mocks Former Economy Minister’s Agrokor Book

ZAGREB, October 29, 2018 - The leader of the opposition MOST party Božo Petrov said on Monday in a mocking comment on the book entitled "Agrokor: Slom Ortačkog Kapitalizma (Agrokor: The Collapse of Crony Capitalism, in an unofficial translation) by Martina Dalić, former economy minister, that it in fact presented the "beatification of Saint Martina, the patron of free market."

The book is to be officially launched on Monday afternoon, and the event prompted Petrov to say that the whole story is "about the beatification of the patron saint of free market."

Petrov also ironically commented that the process of "beatification" was led by Gojko Drljača, a reporter and columnist in the Jutarnji List daily of the Hanza Media publishing house which was why it would offer 45,000 free-of-charges copies of that "hagiography" about Martina Dalić.

When the Agrokor crisis broke out, the MOST party was a junior partner in the ruling coalition, and in her book Martina Dalić writes that it was Božo Petrov of the MOST who had proposed that money collected from taxpayers should be used to bail out the Konzum retail chain in the Agrokor Group.

In response to these claims, Petrov said today that there had been several models proposed how to salvage the group, however, the model proposed by Dalić, who was at the time economy minister, prevailed. "In comparison to all other models, our model did not include the services of consultants, favouritism in awarding jobs and roll-up loans. And, let us not be beguiled by their arguments, each model is in fact state interventionism, including what they those in power have done in addressing the Agrokor crisis," said Petrov.

As for the announced participation of the Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić at today's launch of the book, Petrov said "they are all the same." "What we could see from statements by 'Saint Martina', Governor Vujčić also cooperated with them, while we had no idea about that. They are all the same," the MOST party chief said.

If you are interested in reading more about the Agrokor affair, click here.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Todorić: ''We've Got Unbelievable Evidence, I'm the Victor''

Agrokor's former main man fights on in the fog of London.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Ivica Todorić - Requiem for a Company

''Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.'' - Karl Kraus

Friday, 31 August 2018

Ivica Todorić Comments on Government, Dalić's Hotmail Affair, and Extradition

The ex Agrokor boss and current fugitive in London gave an interview to Dnevnik Nove TV ahead of the British ruling on his extradition to Croatia to face trial.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Former Agrokor Commissioner Ante Ramljak Leaves Croatia for Czech Republic

Agrokor's former government appointed extraordinary commissioner has left Croatia, in the direction of the Czech Republic.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Conflict of Interest Proceedings Launched against Former Minister Dalić

ZAGREB, May 18, 2018 - The Conflict of Interest Commission on Friday launched proceedings against former deputy prime minister and economy minister Martina Dalić in a case it opened last week following a complaint and leaks of her email correspondence on the ailing Agrokor conglomerate, dubbed the Hotmail scandal.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

USKOK Takes Over Investigation of Agrokor Email Affair

ZAGREB, May 16, 2018 - After criminal charges were filed against former Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalić by the Free Croatia and Živi Zid parties due to the Agrokor email scandal, i.e. her email correspondence with the consultants and lawyers who worked on Lex Agrokor, the USKOK anti-corruption office is taking over that case, according to unofficial sources from the State Prosecutor's Office.

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