Saturday, 30 July 2022

Ex-Minister Released from Investigative Custody

ZAGREB, 30 July 2022 - Former HDZ minister Tomislav Tolušić, whom the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) suspects of misappropriating European funds to build a winery, was released from investigative custody on Friday.

Tolušić was released at the EPPO's request after all 16 witnesses who he could have tampered with were questioned.

The former minister was remanded in custody on 8 July, after he and Željko Ferenc, an employee at the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, were arrested in Virovitica.

Ferenc was released from investigative custody on Thursday after having been previously suspended.

Following their arrest, the EPPO said, without revealing their identities, that Tolušić, as an owner of a family-run farm, submitted an application for a project for the construction and equipment of a winery, worth HRK 4.65 million, with the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development in early May 2020, and that the level of co-financing with European funds was 70%.

In the application, Tolušić falsely stated that the financing of the project would be secured with a loan from a financial institution. However, he did not apply for a loan, and he financed the project with money whose legal origin cannot be proved, the prosecutor's office said.

Moreover, he did not inform the agency about the change in the financing, and was granted HRK 2.92 million in aid.

Tolušić applied to another tender, advertised by the agency on 2 June 2021 for the construction of new vineyards and the reconstruction of existing ones.

For the second application, Tolušić reportedly incited Ferenc to give a positive opinion on his application for the grant, although the application falsely stated that the piece of land in question had no crops planted in it, when in fact he had previously planted a vineyard there.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food refused to issue a positive opinion on the submitted technological project due to knowledge of the existence of a vineyard already planted there and due to other observed irregularities, the EPPO said.

After the rejection, Tolušić removed the grapevine that had been planted, obtained a new technological project and submitted it with the application.

He expected to receive a grant of HRK 1.5 million, with 85% being co-financed by EU funds, that is, more than HRK 1.3 million. However, the agency established that he did not meet the conditions, so the funding was not granted, the EPPO said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Ex-Minister, State Employee Behind Bars Awaiting Interrogation by EPPO

ZAGREB, 7 July 2022 - Former agriculture minister Tomislav Tolušić and Željko Ferenc, an employee of the Paying Agency for Agriculture, who were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of subsidy fraud and abuse of office in two wine sector tenders, are to be interrogated by European investigators.

Tolušić and Ferenc, who were apprehended in their homes in the eastern Croatian city of Virovitica on a warrant issued by the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), have been transferred to Zagreb for questioning.

A Zagreb County Court investigating judge will decide on their detention if the European investigators make such a request.

Media outlets say that Tolušić was granted HRK 2.5 million in aid for his winery project under the EU scheme in which half of the sum is covered by the non-repayable grant and the other half is provided by the business concerned.

However, it has turned out that Tolušić's putative sum of another HRK 2.5 million did not exist and that he provided false evidence to show that he met the requirements for the grant.

Tolušić reportedly incited Ferenc to give a positive opinion on his application for the grant, although the application falsely stated that the piece of land in question had no crops planted in it, when in fact he had previously planted a vineyard there.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Ex-Officials Aladrović, Tolušić, Žunac Being Questioned by USKOK

ZAGREB, 20 June 2022 - A former minister Tomislav Tolusic of the Croatian Democratic Movement (HDZ) was questioned on Monday by the USKOK anti-corruption office as a suspect in an alleged case of corruption while another former minister Josip Aladrović of the HDZ party is due to give his deposition on Monday afternoon.

Tolušić was accompanied by his defence attorney Ilija Stanić.

Before Tolušić was questioned, a former state secretary in the Ministry for Regional Development Velimir Žunac was also questioned whose defence attorney Fran Olujić said that Žunac had said he did not feel guilty however, he refrained from answering any of the prosecutor's questions.

Aladrović's defence attorney Nikola Mandić confirmed earlier to Hina that his client is expected to be questioned today. Aladrović is charged with favouritism on two occasions concerning employment in 2018 and 2019 while he was the director of the Croatian Pension Insurance Fund (HZMO).

Without revealing their identity, the prosecution said that this was an extension of a previous investigation of former Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets Darko Horvat (HDZ), who, along with his assistant Ana Mandac, is suspected of illegally inciting four co-suspects to award HRK 2.6 million in grants to enterprises he was personally interested in.

Horvat and Mandac along with Tolušić and Žunac, former deputy prime minister Boris Milošević and the head of the ministry's department for areas of special state concern, Karica Mišković, are all suspects in this case.

The extended investigation into Aladrović also implicates the Mayor of Županja Damir Juzbašić, a former member of the HDZ, turned Independent candidate on the Homeland Movement's slate.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Conflict of Interest Commission to Investigate Agriculture Minister

ZAGREB, May 7, 2019 - The Conflict of Interest Commission will check Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić's declaration of assets and look into media reports about a company that built a house for him, the Commission's spokeswoman Martina Jurišić told Hina.

According to media reports, the minister had his house built by a company that collaborated with the Virovitica-Podravina County administration while he served as county prefect.

Tolušić stated in his declaration of assets that his house in Virovitica measured 165 square metres, while according to data from the State Geodetic Administration, the property measures 330 square metres in surface area, the Telegram news website said, adding that on this plot there is one more house, measuring 121 square metres, which is not mentioned in the declaration of assets.

Tolušić told reporters outside government headquarters this morning that he thought he had done everything according to law, and if the Commission thought otherwise, he would be glad to rectify it.

He said that the space he lives in measures 153 square metres and denied that there are two houses on his property. "No, there is only one house. You can come and see for yourselves."

More news about the conflict of interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Plenković: Information Leaks, Doctored Photos Will Be Probed

ZAGREB, February 2, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Friday commented on classified information leaks and of the fake photographs purportedly showing Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Tolušić, saying that everything will be investigated.

Plenković underscored that it is necessary to find out why somebody has been disseminating doctored photographs to the media in an effort to besmirch someone. "As far as the doctored photos are concerned that were supposed to result in defaming the deputy prime minister, his private life, integrity, family and in that way, additionally impact the destabilisation of the government, I think we can put two and two together," he said.

The press asked the prime minister what could happen now that the parliamentary committee had received the Security and Intelligence Agencies (SOA) report and after the finalisation of an investigation in that case and where information leaks to the media were coming from, not just in the Tolušić case but with the purchase of Israeli jets too.

"With regard to information leaks, we will check how that information ended up in the media. I think that it isn't good for information to be leaking, but information was leaking prior to this government too," he said.

Asked to comment on whether the Živi Zid party and the recent events surrounding that opposition parliamentary party were pernicious, Plenković responded, "they don't interest me at all," however, he did say that this was a good opportunity for voters to clearly see the nature of such movements.

"Tendencies by parties that don't have a sound political platform, don't have a clear idea of what they want but have a destructive approach, aren't useful," he said.

Asked whether perhaps large political parties were to blame for Živi Zid's popularity, Plenković said that he has been responsible for leading the Croatian Democratic Union since July 2016 and that if there is anything he especially strives for it is that there is no demagogy, no moves that could possibly have an effect on groups of that nature growing.

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

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Relevant Services Should Determine Source of Fake Photos, President Says

ZAGREB, January 27, 2017 - Commenting for the N1 broadcaster on the case of fake photographs designed to discredit Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Tolušić, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Saturday that relevant state services should determine the source of the fake photos as well as who had made them and for what purpose.

Earlier this week, the Nacional weekly ran an article under the headline "A hooker and cocaine in professional set-up against Tomislav Tolušić". The article was accompanied by fake photos aimed at discrediting the minister. The weekly said that the photos were fake, as established also by the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA).

Nacional's editor-in-chief, who gave a deposition to the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) in relation to this case, would not reveal the source of the fake photos.

"The question about the photographs, which reportedly exist, is if abuse of narcotics occurred. That is a legitimate question, but from what I hear, Minister Tolušić himself has said that he will gladly answer any question and have himself tested for drugs," the president said in an interview with N1.

Underlining the importance of privacy, she said: "I simply don't want us, with all the problems we have, to stoop so low as to try to discredit one another in the dirtiest way possible."

Asked if in her opinion, national security had been jeopardised in this case, Grabar-Kitarović said that it all depended on who wanted the photos to be made public and for what purpose.

“This is really a question for the relevant state services. Now that the affair has happened, it should be determined where the photographs came from, who did it and why. I would not rule out hybrid activity from a neighbouring or other country, aimed at destabilising the government and the country."

"One also cannot rule out intra-party conflicts or conflicts between criminal clans, but if that is the case, it also needs to be dealt with by law enforcement agencies," the president said.

More news on the fake photos affair can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Tolušić Case Called “Most Perfidious Attempt to Destabilise Government”

ZAGREB, January 23, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that the 'Tolušić case' was the most perfidious attempt to compromise and destabilise government so far, dismissing insinuations that this was a "PR attempt" by the ruling coalition to divert attention from other topics.

"We have already seen fabricated text messages between state prosecutors, judges, prime minister, deputy prime ministers, but we haven't seen anything like this before," Plenković said at the start of a cabinet meeting, saying that that the attempt to fabricate compromising photographs of deputy prime minister and Economy Minister Tomislav Tolušić was the main topic over the past several days.

Plenković said he was particularly surprised by the comments of some political stakeholders and some media who claim this is all part of "the PR attempt to divert attention from some other topics." We are not that creative and we are not into business of doing that, Plenković said.

The prime minister stressed that everyone in the government was outraged by the attempt to besmirch Minister Tolušić, which objectively could have had serious consequences for his private life as well. "This deserves strongest condemnation and of course, I expect the authorities to find the perpetrator and discover their motive," Plenković said.

The prime minister added that regardless of all attempts to destabilise the authorities, the government would continue to do its job.

In the end he thanked the owner and editor in chief of the Nacional weekly who published the information about the Tolušić case, acted reasonably and informed the Security and Intelligence Agency about it immediately, which soon after that established that it was a doctored photo..

The Nacional weekly on Tuesday ran an article under the headline "A hooker and cocaine in professional set-up against Tomislav Tolušić". The article is accompanied by fake photos aimed at discrediting the minister. The weekly claims that the photomontage showing Tolušić with a prostitute and cocaine was aimed at discrediting and politically destroying Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Minister Tolušić. The weekly said it had obtained the photos from an anonymous source.

The Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA), which has also received the photos in the meantime, has found them to be fabrications. Other minister also condemned the fake photographs.

More news on the agriculture minister can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Better Future for Croatian Agriculture?

ZAGREB, December 6, 2018 - Croatian Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić told parliament on Thursday that a record high amount of 1.1 billion kuna (149 million euro) had been paid as advance payment in state aid to farmers in November. "Farmers can see a light at the end of the tunnel," the minister said during a parliamentary debate on the Agriculture Bill.

The ministry wants to help small and medium-sized farms to develop, and not to make business more difficult for big farms. The priority is given to animal husbandry, including pig farming, which has been pushed to very low levels in the past 20 years, Tolušić said.

In response to MOST MP Miro Bulj's comments on trends in the agricultural sector and on the market, the minister said that he agreed with the statements that it was necessary to raise awareness in the Croatian society of the need to buy local products. In this context, he said that the Agriculture Ministry was "fighting for that cause."

In response to criticism from another MOST lawmaker, Sonja Čikotić, the minister said that "it has been agreed that a new agricultural development strategy should be elaborated, which has not been done for the last 20 years".

The Agriculture Bill defines targets and measures of the national agricultural policy and creates a framework for the implementation of those measures.

The new legislation is meant to ensure the continued practice of direct payments, and defines legal foundations for prevention and reduction of food waste and for food donation.

Under the bill, international food standards will be introduced, and the Agriculture Ministry will be appointed the central coordinating body for the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of internationally recognised standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to food, food production, and food safety.

For more on the agriculture in Croatia, click here.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Bright Future for Croatia's Agriculture, Says Minister

ZAGREB, August 25, 2018 - Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić on Saturday said that Croatia's agriculture sector had a bright future which can be seen in the better absorption of funding from the Rural Development Programme and in the increased mechanisation in farming.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

124 Million Kuna for Modernisation of Croatian Plant Production

Good news for Croatia's plant production as a considerable sum of money is poured into its much needed modernisation.

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