Thursday, 19 May 2022

Karamarko Says Damages To Be Paid To MOL Possibly To Amount To Billions Of Kuna

ZAGREB, 19 May 2022 - In a comment on the High Administrative Court's ruling quashing a decision that he had been in a conflict of interest, former HDZ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko has said that the damage caused to Croatia would possibly amount to billions of kuna.

The 2016 decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission, which found that Karamarko had been in a conflict of interest, resulted in his withdrawing from politics.

Commenting on the ruling quashing the decision, Karamarko said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that Dalija Orešković, chair of the Conflict of Interest Commission in 2016 and now a member of parliament, "was rewarded by being launched into high politics after completing her task."

As for the Bridge party, which made its participation in the then government led by the HDZ conditional on Karamarko's resignation, Karamarko said that it had caused considerable damage to the Croat people whose interests it claimed to protect.

Describing Orešković and Bridge as "pawns", Karamarko said that damages to be paid by Croatia to the Hungarian MOL oil company would be known soon and that they would possibly amount to billions of kuna.

Karamarko resigned after the Conflict of Interest Commission concluded that his wife Ana's company Drimia had received money from individuals lobbying for MOL.

In June 2016 the Commission concluded that Karamarko, at the time First Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ president, had been in a conflict of interest because he presented his personal views and proposals for Croatia's withdrawal from arbitration proceedings with MOL, notably at meetings of the Cooperation Council.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Ex-commission Chair: Decision on Karamarko Served to Prevent Probes into Plenković

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - After the High Administrative Court quashed the Conflict of Interest Commission's decision that former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko had been in a conflict of interest, former Commission chair Dalija Orešković said the case was a political pretext serving to prevent the Commission from investigating PM Andrej Plenković.

"It was clear what epilogue the situation would have from the moment the Constitutional Court ruled on that case in July 2019. All subsequent decisions by administrative courts, including in Karamarko's case, as well as in all the cases in which the Commission decided about the violation of principles of conduct, followed the basic decision and instruction of the Constitutional Court," Orešković told reporters in the parliament.

She was commenting on the High Administrative Court's final ruling quashing the 2016 decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission which found that former HDZ leader and Deputy PM Tomislav Karamarko had been in a conflict of interest, which was why he withdrew from politics.

Orešković, a member of parliament from the Centre party, said the Constitutional Court's decision contested the Conflict of Interest Commission's authority to decide and make declaratory decisions on breaches of principles of conduct.

"That decision was not primarily motivated by justice-seeking or defence of constitutionality in the case of Tomislav Karamarko but was a political front for aborting the Conflict of Interest Commission as an anti-corruption body with the aim of preventing it from looking into cases involving Andrej Plenković," she said.

Orešković recalled that at the time when the Constitutional Court decided on the Karamarko case, the Conflict of Interest Commission was expecting to deal with reports filed against PM Plenković (concerning the appointment of his close friend Igor Pokaz as ambassador to the UK, the HDZ party's trip to Helsinki aboard a government plane, and the Agrokor and Borg affairs), which involved Plenković, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and former Economy Minister Martina Dalić.

"The degree of conflict of interest in Karamarko's case is insignificant compared to the gravity of violations of law in Plenković's case, and if such practice had been supported by the system, the government of Andrej Plenković would have fallen long ago," she said.

The Constitutional Court's decision not only protected Plenković from facing political responsibility but was used by the HDZ to fully erase from the new Conflict of Interest Act the provision on the violation of principles of conduct, she said.

Orešković said that instead of the Conflict of Interest Commission "we now have a scandalous novelty that has enabled the government to adopt a code of ethics for office-holders, with the relevant decisions being made by a body directly under government control."

"The standards are being eroded and today we have a completely paralysed anti-corruption system," said Orešković warned.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Ex-HDZ Leader's Wife Released From Custody Pending Further Proceedings

ZAGREB, May 21, 2020 - Ana Karamarko, wife of former HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko, was released from custody on Wednesday evening because anti-corruption investigators did not ask that she be remanded in custody after earlier in the day she was arrested as part of an investigation into the suspected financial crime.

Karamarko was questioned on Wednesday evening by investigators with the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK), after which she was released pending further proceedings, Hina learned from sources close to the investigation.

Her lawyer Ivo Farcic said that his client had denied any involvement in the criminal activity she is suspected of.

"She is suspected of issuing an invoice in the amount of HRK 400,000 for a service rendered, but she is not suspected of having kept the money for herself," Farcic said.

A decision on whether the other 30 people arrested as part of the investigation will be remanded in custody will be known after they are questioned. The investigation covers nine companies and 38 persons, one of whom has been in prison from before while six are currently beyond the reach of Croatian police.

Tomislav Pavkovic and Oliver Kolobaric are believed to have led the group suspected of conspiring for the purpose of evading taxes and customs duties, abuse of trust in business operations, and aiding and abetting the commission of those crimes.

The group, suspected of using fictitious contracts to siphon HRK 20 million from a number of companies, defrauding the state of HRK 11 million in the process, was allegedly put together by the two men.

The persons in question and their companies are suspected of charging non-existent services via fictitious invoices and tax fraud from 2017 until 2019.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Karamarko to Run Again for HDZ President?

ZAGREB, November 9, 2019 - Former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko on Saturday posted a message on his Facebook wall indicating that he could run again for party president in elections to be held in the spring of 2020.

At the end of a lengthy post on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former HDZ leader says: "P.S. As far as I'm concerned, I continue destroying 'the antifascist defence wall'. See you at party elections!"

Judging by statements they have given so far, other possible rivals to HDZ leader Andrej Plenković at the party elections are MPs Miro Kovač and Davor Ivo Stier and Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava.

Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that any HDZ member could take part in party elections, thus commenting on a Facebook post by former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko indicating that he, too, could join in the race for the new party president.

"We have a different matter on the agenda now - presidential elections. Party elections will be held when the time comes," Plenković said in Varaždin after a session of the government's Council for Croats Abroad.

Asked by reporters about antifascism in Croatia, Plenković said that his position was evident from the parliamentary debate on the bill on holidays.

"There are some fundamental values on which modern and free Croatia was built... and those values are also contained in the HDZ's statute and platform. We support it," he said.

Asked what he expected of today's presentation of Social Democratic Party presidential candidate Zoran Milanović's platform, Plenković said briefly "I expect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to win."

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Plenković Not Worried about Karamarko as HDZ President Candidate

ZAGREB, August 7, 2019 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that his predecessor at the HDZ helm, Tomislav Karamarko, who has recently said that he is thinking of his new candidacy for the party chief, had stood a chance and that things were moving on.

"I believe in the prudence of Croatian voters; people can see who takes which route for the country. Karamarko stood a chance, he definitely gave his contribution, however, things are moving on," Plenković said during his visit to the coastal resort of Opatija.

Plenković recalled that more than three years ago, when the HDZ was led by Karamarko, the party ousted its government. They failed to reconfigure a parliamentary majority, and Kramarko stepped down as the party leader, he added.

"In 2016 we swiftly put the party on its feet, won the confidence of voters and now we are leading the government and achieving excellent economic results, strengthening the country's international position and are trying to reduce polarisation in the society," the premier said.

In connection with Karamarko's criticism that the current leadership has made the party move away from its voters, Plenković responded that "the policy we are pursuing is healthy for the Croatian society and the HDZ".

Asked by accusations of the former president Ivo Josipović that the current president Kolinda Grabar Kitarović was under influence of alcohol during the central celebrations of Victory Day in Knin, Plenković said that those was "a very tough statement".

"The whole celebration passed in a nice and dignified manner with messages, speeches, being emotionally-charged," he said.

Asked by press to comment on chanting for the 'For the homeland ready' salute during the celebrations of Victory Day, Plenković said that it was up to the police to respond to such developments and also courts can get involved, if there are assessments that they should act.

"I can see that the police keep saying that regardless of their numerous activities, the things do not end up the way they (the police) have anticipated."

When they assess that there are offences, the police must respond, the premier said.

During his stay in Opatija, Plenković met local authorities for the talks on development plans of this Adriatic resort town.

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Tomislav Karamarko to Run for HDZ President?

ZAGREB, August 5, 2019 - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said in Knin on Monday that Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenković was not in any jeopardy after his predecessor Tomislav Karamarko announced that he was thinking about running for the post of HDZ president at the next party election.

Božinović believes that the prime minister is successfully leading the government, that he has successfully won the election and that he has consolidated the party both in terms of organisation and in terms of finances.

"As far as candidates and their desires are concerned, the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) is a democratic party. We all know who is who in the party and what their potential is," Božinović said.

HDZ MP Miro Kovač, too, briefly commented on Karamarko's possible candidacy for party president, saying that everyone had the right to talk about themselves.

Asked whether there were too many candidates from the HDZ's right wing, Kovač said that he was not counting the candidates and that that was not his job.

"I'm following the situation but I'm not keeping records of who wants to be what in the HDZ. It is a democratic party, that's what we fought for and everyone has the right to express their ambitions. That's natural," said Kovač.

Asked whether Karamarko is now his main rival, Kovac said that he doesn't see any particular rivalry because he values everyone who wishes to assist the HDZ.

Former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko on Monday said that motivated by the poor situation in the party and its defeat in the May European parliamentary election, he was seriously considering the possibility of once again running for the post of HDZ president.

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Constitutional Court Upholds Karamarko's Complaint

ZAGREB, July 10, 2019 - The Constitutional Court has upheld a complaint which former Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko lodged against the rulings of administrative courts that confirmed the 2016 decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission that during his term as Deputy Prime Minister he was in a conflict of interest due to his business and private relations with MOL's consultant Josip Petrović.

Karamarko's lawyer Vesna Alaburić told Hina on Wednesday that the explanation of the Constitutional Court's judgment would be forwarded to her and his client on Friday, but that the minutes of the court session on 2 July show that the rulings of both the Zagreb Administrative Court and High Administrative Court have been quashed.

The case will thus be sent back to these courts for reconsideration.

Alaburić said that the Constitutional Court did not go into the merits of the decision made by the Conflict of Interest Commission.

Alaburić said that she considers the decision made by that commission to be against the law and incorrect. "We believe that we will prove that in the new proceedings."

Karamarko told the N1 commercial broadcaster that the judgement delivered by the Constitutional Court was fair. "I was not in a conflict of interest. I only wanted to help Croatia to avoid a huge financial loss," he said.

On 15 June 2016, the Conflict of Interest Commission decided that the then Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ leader Karamarko was in a conflict of interest when he had been expressing his personal views and suggestions that Croatia should withdraw from the arbitration proceedings with the Hungarian energy group MOL over Croatia's oil and gas company INA, and that this was evident when Karamarko expressed his opinions at the HDZ-MOST Council for Cooperation in early May.

The Commission established that Karamarko had found himself in a situation when his private interests could influence his performance in the government and could have greater weight than public interests, which is why he should not be involved in decision-making regarding the INA-MOL arbitration. Croatia's government and MOL, INA's two major stakeholders, are involved in two arbitration proceedings over their relations in INA.

The Commission examined the potential conflict of interest in which Karamarko might be due to business relations between the Drimia company, owned by his wife Ana, and the Peritus Savjetovanja company owned by Josip Petrović, MOL lobbyist and consultant, for two years after Karamarko took the helm of the HDZ and due to the friendship between Karamarko and Petrović.

"Personal and business relations that have existed between Karamarko and Petrović put the office-holder Karamarko in a situation when his private interests can affect his impartiality in performing his duties as the First Deputy Prime Minister and, likewise, he may be in a conflict of interest which is why he cannot participate in decision-making regarding the arbitration proceedings," the Commission concluded then.

The Commission also noted that upon taking office as Deputy Prime Minister Karamarko failed to declare properly business relations that connected him with Petrović and Petrović's firm which performed a series of intelligence and consulting services for MOL.

More news about Tomislav Karamarko can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Former HDZ Leader Karamarko Questioned by Prosecutors

ZAGREB, Dec 19, 2018 - Former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko testified at the USKOK anti-corruption office about the fake text message scandal on Tuesday.

Karamarko told the RTL commercial broadcaster before his testimony that he was coming as a witness in the case which refers to former police IT specialist Franjo Varga, who has been in custody on the suspicion that he made fake text messages for a number of people and who, Karamarko said, was introduced to him by two of his friends in early 2017, when he was no longer the HDZ leader or the deputy prime minister.

"Those friends are not politicians," the former HDZ chief said, adding that the case should be cleared up as soon as possible.

He repeated that it was only after he stepped down as HDZ president and deputy prime minister that he met Varga, who mentioned Karamarko to investigators after his arrest. "He asked for a meeting with me, saying that he had information about electoral fraud in 2015. I naturally was interested in information about that, just as this institution should be," Karamarko told reporters outside USKOK.

Asked if he then hired Varga, Karamarko said that there "is an analysis of electoral fraud in Zagreb in 2015" and that he thought that Varga could make a similar analysis for the entire country, but that he never did.

"He always needed financial assistance, not big, small. The man obviously had financial problems so I responded," Karamarko said, adding that he had already told the media about that.

Asked if he would return to politics, Karamarko said, "only God knows and God will decide".

Former HDZ leader Karamarko said that he had never discussed Varga with HDZ deputy president Milijan Brkić, who has already testified in the case.

Blaž Curić, Brkić's close friend and chauffeur for Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić, has been arrested on the suspicion that he contacted Varga to tell him that he was under investigation and would be arrested.

Varga is suspected of fabricating text correspondence between former chief state prosecutor Dinko Cvitan and a judge who sat on the Osijek County Court panel which tried former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić, his brother Zoran, former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović and tax official Milan Pernar. The correspondence indicated that before the first instance verdict was delivered, Cvitan had pressured the judge into convicting one of the defendants without any evidence.

Varga is suspected of giving the fake texts to Mamić, who made them public at a press conference on June 4. Mamić's attorney then requested that the verdict be postponed, but the panel refused, finding all the defendants guilty on June 6 pending appeal.

Varga is also suspected of fabricating text correspondence alleging influence on Supreme Court judges, so that Mamić could use it in appellate proceedings.

In late November, the media published details of Varga's deposition in which he describes his relationship with Mamićas well as his cooperation with Karamarko, Brkić, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's former national security advisor Vlado Galić, as well as former Agrokor owner Ivica Todorć.

The Osijek County Court is to decide on Wednesday whether to extend custody for Varga and Curić or release them.

More news on the “text messages affair” can be found in our Politics section.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Former Prime Minister Acquitted of Slandering Former HDZ President Karamarko

ZAGREB, March 2, 2018 - Zagreb Municipal Court on Friday acquitted Josip Manolić of defamation charges filed by former HDZ leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko after Manolić claimed in an interview with the Nacional weekly that Karamarko was a collaborator with the Yugoslav secret service (UDBA).

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Former HDZ Leader Karamarko Rejects Conflict of Interest Ruling

ZAGREB, January 20, 2018 - The Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) former leader, Tomislav Karamarko, has written on his Facebook account that that the decision of High Administrative Court to uphold the Zagreb-based Administrative Court's judgment about him being in conflict of interest fills him with indignation.

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