Sunday, 26 January 2020

President-Elect Milanović to Testify in Travel Expense Scam Trial

ZAGREB, January 26, 2020 - Zoran Milanović, who was recently elected Croatian president, is supposed to testify on Monday before Zagreb County Court in the trial dubbed travel expense scam in which Tomislav Saucha, who was Milanovic's chief of staff during his premiership, and his secretary, Sandra Zeljko, are implicated.

At the start of their trial, Saucha and Zeljko pleaded not guilty to the charges of falsifying 125 travel orders and defrauding the state budget of 960,000 kuna (130,000 euro).

Saucha is charged with falsifying travel orders in collusion with Zeljko, who the prosecution alleges continued doing so after Saucha left office.

Milanović will take a witness stand in this case due to the fact that that Saucha was his chief of staff while Milanović served as the prime minister, and due to the fact that some of the false travel orders referred to made-up travels ostensibly involving Milanović's special advisors, the Večernji List daily said on Sunday..

Some of those former advisors of Milanović already took a witness stand in this trial and one of them, historian Neven Budak, told the court in late 2019 that someone had forged his signatures on 44 travel orders.

"At the time when I was the prime minister's special advisor on science and education I travelled only once, to Sydney, when a Croatian language department was opened there. When I returned, secretary Sandra Zeljko told me that I should not write any report or calculate the costs, which I found odd because as the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences I knew how travel expenses are calculated," Budak told the court on 22 November 2019.

Siniša Petrović, a former special advisor to former PM Milanović, said that during the investigation in the case he had checked his travel orders and signatures and realised that those orders referred to trips in 2015 and 2016 which he did not go on and that the signature on the orders was not his.

The Večernji List underscores the fact that Milanović is the first president-elect to testify before a court. The daily newspaper recalls that former heads of state, Stipe Mesić and Ivo Josipović, were also summoned by courts to testify in trials, however, they gave testimonies after their terms as presidents.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Trial of Saucha, Zeljko for Travel Expense Scam Commences on Thursday

ZAGREB, September 11, 2019 - The trial of former prime minister's chief of staff Tomislav Saucha and his secretary Sandra Zeljko begins at Zagreb's County Court on Thursday, in a case dubbed "travel expenses" in which the USKOK anti-corruption office accuses them of falsifying travel requests and pocketing HRK 1 million in the process.

USKOK contends that Saucha, as former PM Zoran Milanović's chief of staff, falsified travel requests together with Zeljko, his then secretary, and that she continued to do so after Saucha no longer held that job.

An investigation was initially launched only into Saucha, who was an MP of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) at the time, and was later expanded to Zeljko, who was initially described as a key witness. The investigation became final in August 2017, when a Zagreb County Court panel of judges granted USKOK's appeal against an earlier decision whereby a judge ruled that expanding the investigation was unlawful.

USKOK's decision to expand the investigation was first quashed when Saucha's vote was crucial for Finance Minister Zdravko Marić's surviving a no-confidence vote in parliament, although he had signed a petition for the vote to be held.

He dismissed suspicions that somebody had "bought" him, claiming he changed his mind about the Marić vote of confidence to avoid a snap election.

More news about the controversial politician 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.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Supreme Court Rejects MP Saucha's Appeal in Travel Expenses Scandal

ZAGREB, January 30, 2019 - The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Tomislav Saucha, a former chief-of-staff in the prime minister's office, who has requested that the assessment of his signature in the travel expenses scandal be pulled out of the case file.

Saucha's defence attorney, Darko Maržić briefly conformed this information to Hina.

Saucha's defence lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court after the trial chamber in Zagreb County Court on 19 September refused to withdraw evidence with Saucha's signature, claiming the graphoanalysis of those signatures was inadmissible.

The indictment against Saucha was returned to the USKOK anti-corruption office in March 2018 to be amended following a request by the defence that the graphoanalysis of Saucha's signatures was inadmissible.

USKOK has accused Saucha that while he was the chief-of-staff in former prime minister Zoran Milnanović's office he defrauded the state budget, together with his then secretary, Sandra Zeljko, and in that way illegally gained over 580,000 kuna.

In an extended investigation USKOK further suspected Saucha of sharing the fabricated allowances with Zeljko, the then 'crown witness' in the case.

USKOK suspects Zeljko of having continued to collect fictitious travel expenses even after the end of Saucha's term in the government, saying that in March 2016 she forged the signatures of Saucha's successors Neven Zelić and Davor Božinović collecting nearly 350,000 kuna in fictitious travel expenses.

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

Friday, 6 July 2018

New Indictment Filed Against Government’s Key MP

Without MP Tomislav Saucha’s support, the government would be just one vote in parliament from collapse.

Friday, 8 December 2017

MP Tomislav Saucha, Key Member of Ruling Majority, Indicted

The controversial member of Parliament changed sides earlier this year, leaving SDP and starting to vote with the parliamentary majority.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Court Rejects Expanded Investigation Against Saucha

MP Tomislav Saucha recently cast the crucial vote in the Parliament in support of Finance Minister Zdravko Marić.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Fun Activities at the Circus: Sucking Saucha

Where to start after one of the most extraordinary weeks in the history of the Croatian Parliament? Tanja Radmilo guides us through the deals of the week, and takes a hot shower afterwards, in her weekly column From Croatia with Madness on May 5, 2017. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tomislav Saucha Again Loses Parliamentary Immunity

The second investigation against the Member of Parliament will proceed.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Tomislav Saucha to Lose Parliamentary Immunity Once Again

State prosecutor is expanding investigation against former chief of staff of former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.

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