Saturday, 11 September 2021

Posavec Resigns as Međimurje County Head, Granted Pre-Trial Release

ZAGREB, 11 Sept, 2021 - Međimurje County head Matija Posavec and the chairman of the management board of the County Road Directorate, Josip Kobal, have been granted a pre-trial release after being questioned by USKOK corruption investigators.

USKOK has said it has opened an investigation into six suspects in two separate cases, requesting investigative custody for only two suspects.

Lawyer Davorin Zalatarek confirmed to Hina on Saturday morning that his client Posavec had been released last night and that another suspect, SDP MP and former Čakovec Mayor Stjepan Kovač, was expected to be released soon. He said he could not discuss details because the investigation was still ongoing.

USKOK said on Saturday morning that Posavec had been released after admitting the crime he is suspected of, and that he had resigned as head of Međimurje County.

Lawyer Berislav Živković said he was not surprised that his client Kobal had been released, because there were no legal grounds for him to be remanded in custody.

Posavec is suspected of fixing jobs with county administration and of receiving a HRK 10,000 (€1,330) bribe from Kobal to secure another term of office for him on the management board of the Međimurje County Roads Directorate.

Kovač is suspected of using fake text messages with death threats against himself to prompt a police investigation and find out who was behind a website that wrote negative articles about him before the May local elections. Police officer Mario Sever and Damir Ledenčan, who sent staged threatening messages, are also suspects in this case.

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Friday, 10 September 2021

Police Director Says USKOK Anti-Corruption Operation Refers to Six Persons

ZAGREB, 10 Sept 2021 - National police director Nikola Milina said on Friday that a major anti-corruption operation launched in the northern region of Međimurje on Friday morning by police and the USKOK anti-corruption agency referred to six persons, without saying if one of them is Međimurje County head Matija Posavec.

"The operation refers to six people," Milina said when asked by reporters if Posavec was arrested.

Milina explained that the persons in question were suspected of corruption.

He stressed that major efforts had been invested to fight corruption and that in the first eight months of 2021, 682 crimes of corruption had been reported, over 80% more than in the same period of 2020.

According to unofficial reports, Međimurje County head Posavec was arrested for taking a bribe in the operation launched against six people, including Social Democrat MP and former Čakovec mayor Stjepan Kovač.

They are suspected of bribery, influence-peddling and abuse of office.

The Večernji List daily has reported that Posavec allegedly took a bribe of HRK 10,000 to employ a person.

The parliamentary Privileges and Credentials Commission is expected to meet at 3 pm to decide on USKOK's motion to strip Kovač of immunity.

For the latest news on politics in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

12 Arrested in Split Under Investigation Over Corruption

ZAGREB, 22 July 2021 - The Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) on Wednesday launched an investigation against 12 persons who were arrested by the police in Split on Tuesday on the graft charges.

The police directorate confirmed on Tuesday that 12 people were apprehended after early morning raids were conducted, including in the city's administration offices in that biggest Croatian coastal city.

The police said that the evidence was being collected and once the criminal investigation was over, the public would be informed of the details.

The anti-corruption raid led to the arrest of businessmen Mario Jukić and Zvonko Kotarac, his brother Ivan Kotarac, architects Emil Šverko and Neno Kezić, a former councilor from the HGS party, Danijela Špalj, a former head of the physical planning and construction department in the city administration, Lada Pocrnić Mladinić, her husband Neven Mladinić and assistant Ljiljana Poletti Kopešić.

The suspects are believed to have conspired to enable the investors of the Amphora Hotel and buildings at the suburbs of Meje to illegally gain €3.2 million.

USKOK also demanded detention for five of the 12 arrested persons.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Friday, 2 July 2021

Highlights of the Week: 5 Big Events in Croatia from June 28-July 4

June 3, 2021 - TCN's highlights of the week. A look at the events in Croatia from June 28 through the selection of TCN's reporter Ivor Kruljac.

EURO 2020 elimination and Dario Šarić in the NBA finals. Zagreb witnessing a series of arrests related to corruption of Milan Bandić's reign and explosive device planted in Split. In the midst of it all, is COVID-19 vaccination on its way to becoming obligatory and not optional? You may prefer the good news or the bad news, but here is both, as another week in Croatia comes to an end.

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© Marin Tironi / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Uskok arresting Zagreb entrepreneurs and associates of former mayor Milan Bandić

The Office of Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation by members of the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor and the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) started at the city administration offices at 6 am on Wednesday.

As TCN wrote, several people were arrested on suspicion of corruption, including the director-general of the HRT public broadcaster, Kazimir Bačić, Andrea Šulentić, and Ana Stavljenić-Rukavina. Both Šulentić and Rukavina were directors in Zagreb administration offices and close associates of former mayor Milan bandić. At the same time, details Bandić's heavy corruption (suspected and known publicly earlier) came to light.

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© Goran Stanzl / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Croatia eliminated from Euro 2020 after losing to Spain

Croatia and Spain met in Copenhagen on Monday for their EURO 2020 round of 16 match. It was a decent effort from Croatia, but not enough. Despite the Spain own goal in the 20th minute, the distraction as Rebić went to change his boots saw Spain even the score. The score towards the end of regular time went to 3:1 for Spain, but Croatia managed to lower to 3:2 and finally, in the added time, Pašalić scored for 3:3.

But, the euphoria was ruined for Croatia as in extra time, Morata earned Spain 4:3, and by 103rd minute, the total and final score was 5:3 for Spain. It was one of the more intense games on Euro so far as both teams show incredible spirit and persistence. 

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© Dusko Jaramaz / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Opposition parties against vaccination being required for job-keeping payments  

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) called on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday not to make vaccination a requirement for job-keeping payments, while the Most party said business owners were being blackmailed into vaccination.

As TCN reported, SDP leader Peđa Grbin elaborated his dissatisfaction via social networks.

"In Croatia, mandatory vaccination is possible, but the obligation is first established under the law on the protection of the population and then regulated and worked out under Immunisation Rules and the Mandatory Vaccination Programme. The obligation of vaccination can't be imposed in another way, notably not by linking support for entrepreneurs with vaccination," SDP president Grbin posted on Facebook.

"Most is against entrepreneurs, who are being forced into vaccination through blackmail, saving the government's mindless epidemic policy", stated the Most party on its official Twitter account. They added that Croatia was stuck with over 300,000 surplus vaccines because of poor government moves and communication omissions.

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© Hrvoje Jelavic / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Dario Šarić becomes 5th Croatian basketballer in the NBA finals

Šibenik's Dario Šarić is the 5th Croatian basketball player to reach the NBA finals! As TCN wrote, Šarić became only the fifth Croatian basketball player in the NBA league finals, joining the company of Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoč, Žan Tabak, and Ante Žižić. Šarić plays for Phoenix Suns. They topped the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2 in the NBA Western Conference Finals. Apart from basketball, Šarić also likes to enjoy sipping coffee on Šibenik cafe terraces, as portrayed in the photo. 

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© Milan Sabic / PIXSELL

Highlights of the week: Bomb planted in Split. One person injured
In the night from Thursday to Friday, an unknown person placed an explosive device underneath a vehicle. The explosion damaged six cars, and one person required medical attention. The investigation is ongoing since Friday morning.  

To learn more about Croatia, have a look at our TC website.

For more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Eight Businessmen, Two City Employees Arrested in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 1 July 2021 - The USKOK anti-corruption office and police continued an anti-corruption operation in Zagreb on Thursday arresting, according to unofficial information, eight businessmen and two city employees.

According to unofficial information, the city employees received money from the businessmen who wanted to land jobs from the city.

The media reported that one of those arrested was Zdranko Čabraja, a member of late mayor Milan Bandić's Labour and Solidarity Party's city committee.

A number of persons connected with Bandić were arrested yesterday, including the HRT public broadcaster's director, Kazimir Bačić, allegedly suspected of influence-peddling in exchange for a flat he was given as a bribe by businessman Milan Lončarić, also arrested on Wednesday.

Media reported that Bačić allegedly mediated between Lončarić and Bandić for the legalization of the Gardens of Light projects and that he personally brought money to Bandić in his office.

Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević yesterday confirmed the arrest of two city employees, the head of the mayor's staff service, Andreja Šulentić, and former Bandić chauffeur Zdravko Krajina.

Among those arrested yesterday are another Bandić chauffer, Vladimir Žaja, a former head of the Commission for the lease of public areas, Jelena Čeklić, the head of the mayor's staff service, Andreja Šulentić, Denis Mohenski, also known as the King of Advent, and Ana Stavljenić Rukavina, a former associate of Bandić's.

The police and USKOK are expected to say more about the arrests during the day.

For more news in Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

USKOK Investigators Conducting Probe in Zagreb City Administration Offices

ZAGREB, 30 June, 2021 - The Office of Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday that a preliminary investigation by members of the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor and the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) started at the city administration offices at 6 am on Wednesday.

Tomašević said in a brief press release that the new city administration fully supported the independence of state institutions and would continue advocating the transparency of work of the city administration, all city departments, companies, institutions and the related businesses.

Media say HRT director arrested

Several people were arrested on Wednesday morning on the suspicion of corruption, including, according to media reports, the director-general of the HRT public broadcaster, Kazimir Bačić.

USKOK and police have not confirmed these reports, but media say that the suspicion of corruption refers mostly to transactions of the previous Zagreb city administration at the end of 2020 and in the first half of 2021.

Bačić was allegedly arrested over a suspicious contract he signed on behalf of HRT with the Tvornica Žarulja light bulb factory.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Zagreb County Court Orders Investigative Custody For Mamić Brothers

ZAGREB, 23 June, 2021 - A Zagreb County Court investigative judge decided on Wednesday that Zdravko and Zoran Mamić should be remanded in custody, which once it becomes final, will serve as the basis to request their extradition from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hina learned from the court.

The remand order was issued due to flight risk and risk of repeating the crime, Judge Krešimir Devčić told Hina.

He added that a panel of judges had upheld an appeal by the USKOK anti-corruption office against an earlier ruling which rejected the custody request. Once today's ruling becomes final it will serve as the basis for Croatia to request that the Mamić brothers be extradited to Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina pursuant to an agreement between the two countries that entered into force in 2014, Devčić explained.

On 10 June the investigative judge rejected USKOK's request to arrest the fugitive Mamić brothers because warrants for their arrest had already been issued and custody had been set in other cases against them.

Businessmen to remain in custody, judges released on bail

With regard to the other suspects in this case, the court confirmed on Monday that Osijek County Court Judge Darko Krušlin was released on bail while Judge Zvonko Vekić and Osijek businessman Drago Tadić were still behind bars.

A third suspect, Judge Ante Kvesić, had also been remanded in custody. He did not appeal against the decision and a final ruling has ordered disciplinary action against him, removing him from his judicial duties. As there was no cause to keep him detained, Kvesić was released on bail on Monday.

USKOK launched an investigation into the six suspects for giving and accepting bribes and influence peddling.

Krušlin is charged with accepting an Audemars Piguet watch in exchange for interceding for Mamić during the trial against him before the Osijek County Court.

USKOK said that in the period from April 2017 to 21 May 2019 Zdravko Mamić, at the time an indictee in several cases that also included his brother and other indictees, met with Judge Vekić in Zagreb, Osijek, Banja Luka, Široki Brijeg and Dubai. Mamić gave Vekić a total of at least €370,000 for him and the other two judges.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Arrested Osijek Judges Sent to Zagreb For USKOK Questioning

ZAGREB, 9 June, 2021 - The three judges of Osijek County Court who were arrested on suspicion of graft on Wednesday morning have been transferred to Zagreb for questioning by the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK).

According to unofficial information, the judges Darko Krušlin and Ante Kvesić were already brought to the USKOK headquarters, after which judge Zvonko Vekić and businessman Drago Tadić were expected too.

USKOK said the arrests were the result of an investigation conducted in cooperation with the police anti-corruption office (PNUSKOK) and tax authorities. The investigation was prompted by accusations made by former Dinamo football club boss Zdravko Mamić who claimed he had bribed the judges concerned to clear him of the charges of embezzlement of money from that sport club.

The State Judicial Council (DSV) previously launched disciplinary proceedings against Krušlin and Vekić, following a request to that effect by the Osijek County Court, for socialising with Mamić. Mamić fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina a few years ago before the announcement of a trial court ruling in a case in which he was charged with siphoning HRK 116 million from Dinamo.

The judges were suspended in late March pending the completion of disciplinary proceedings, and the DSV at the time also rejected a motion by Mamić's defence to be party to the proceedings.

The arrest of three judges a blow to the court

Osijek County Court president Zvonko Vrban told Hina today that the apprehension of the three judges was "a blow to the County Court in Osijek in terms of its functioning."

The court is going to make technical rearrangements, however, "the reputation of those who work in the court can now be questioned by clients".

Vrban declined to comment on the speculation that Mamić bribed the judges in cash, by paying for their travel arrangements and buying them shoes and clothes to make sure they would acquit him.

Last October, Mamić sent USKOK corruption investigators a USB stick with evidence incriminating the judges. On 16 March this year, after the Supreme Court upheld the trial court sentence against him of six and a half years in prison, Mamić held a press conference in the southern Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar, accusing Supreme Court President Đuro Sessa and judges Vekić and Krušlin of corruption and bribe taking, and calling Osijek County Court president Vrban "a criminal who will be dismissed sooner or later."

Mamić claimed that he had paid Vekić over €500,000, which he was to split with Krušlin and Kvesić.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Three Judges and a Local Entrepreneur Arrested under Charges of Corruption in Croatia

9 June 2021 – Police apprehended three judges from Osijek this morning in a case seemingly involving serious corruption in Croatia.

Croatian judicial system has been a point of controversy throughout recent history. Still, it is rare that the police actually get a cause for arrest. Three judges from Osijek, Darko Kruslin, Zvonko Vekic, and Ante Kvesic, were apprehended this morning. This comes after charges brought forth by controversial football manager Zdravko Mamic.

Zdravko Mamic and his brother Zoran Mamic have their own problems with the law. They were recently found guilty of extracting 116 million Croatian Kunas from Dinamo Zagreb football club by the Croatian Supreme Court. Zoran Mamic was the acting club manager at the time. They are currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatia seemingly unable to work out extradition with the local government.

Accusations of Corruption

Index.hr reports Zdravko Mamic supposedly delivered a USB memory drive to USKOK (Bureau for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime) back in October. It contained evidence of various corruption acts the judges committed. He later held a press conference in which he made various accusations of racketeering, accepting bribes, and secret meetings during ongoing cases. He claimed judge Vekic asked him for help in obtaining a higher professional function and extorted €500,000 that he planned on dividing with Kruslin and Kvesic. Mamic said he paid the money in order to have the charges against him dropped. He also mentioned another €100,000 EUR being paid through Zoran Mamic and Drago Tadic – the arrested entrepreneur. On another occasion, Zdravko Mamic supposedly had given Darko Kruslin an expensive watch as a gift. Kruslin later returned the timepiece when Mamic's case went to court in Osijek.

When reading through the entire set of accusations, it becomes clear the men involved had socialised on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, these social circles that feature people holding high positions in various branches of the government and controversial entrepreneurs are nothing new in Croatia. If this case turns out to be valid, it will be an interesting precedent for the future. Having a long-time controversial figure like Zdravko Mamic putting in motion such an important corruption case is a perfect irony to cap the story off.

For more on the latest news out of Croatia, click here.

 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: At The Moment I Don't See That Gabrijela Žalac is Guilty of Anything

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that at the moment he did not see that former minister Gabrijela Žalac, an official of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), is guilty of anything after the USKOK anti-corruption office expanded its investigation in the windpark scandal.

"I read the press release for my information. Our judicial bodies are independent. You are aware of our position - we have zero tolerance to corruption. I don't what is behind that and I cannot deduct from the press release what exactly it has to do with," Plenković told reporters during a visit to Split-Dalmatia County.

I don't have any information about what USKOK and the State Prosecutor (DORH) are doing.

What he does know is that the loan in question was approved, as far as he is aware, in accordance with the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) rules.

"We have to see here what this is about exactly. At the moment I don't know nor do I have any detailed information of what USKOK or DORH are working on. She is a member of the HDZ. At the moment I don't see that she is guilty of anything," said Plenković.

He claimed that he saw Žalac about a month ago but they did not discuss the windpark case.

"She will deal with this situation on her own and as far as our relationship is concerned, it is as it was in any case," underscored Plenković.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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