Corruption investigators knocking on Croatia’s former president’s – Stjepan Mesic – door!

Stjepan Mesic

Corruption seems woven deeply into the fabric of  that part of Croatian society where former, and perhaps some current power brokers, politicians and public company directors roam. No big surprise there, all former communist countries are tarnished with the same brush. The challenge is to pluck out the rotten threads, one by one, and free the society from having to tolerate individuals who have amassed personal wealth through corruption and bribery, and impoverished the country’s industrial base to such alarming proportions that sees new companies either bankrupt or at the brink of bankruptcy every day.

One doesn’t need to be highly street-wise to conclude that the ever climbing, disastrous levels of unemployment in Croatia are directly correlated to the gradual, allegedly corruption driven, depletion of jobs and winding down of hundreds of companies.

To see grown men cry on the streets, in front of daily TV News cameras, not knowing how they will feed their families without a job, is a motive that must mobilise all appropriate authorities into more action against corruption. Not only to process any justified corruption charges but to confiscate all property acquired through the crime that corruption is.

During the past three or so years in particular, the former HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) government of Croatia, led by Jadranka Kosor, had declared war on corruption. The strongest message for this warfare was sent when the former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader ended up behind bars on corruption charges (currently still being heard in court).

Croatia’s new government, led by Zoran Milanovic, SDP (Social Democratic Party), has just this week demonstrated that it, too, has the hallmarks and stamina to engage in war against corruption.

Croatia’s Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic stated, for the media, last Tuesday, that all documents pertaining to allegations of bribery in the 2007 purchasing of armoured vehicles worth 112 Million EURO from Finnish company Patria during the presidency of Stjepa Mesic have been sent to the State Prosecutor’s Office for investigation.

This investigation is sparked by the recent “allegation made by Wolgang Riedl, Patria’s go-between person during the sale of armoured vehicles in Slovenia and for a short period of time in Croatia as well, about meetings that allegedly took place in the Office of the President during the time when Stjepan Mesic was in office”.

Riedl told investigators the names of people in Croatia to whom he gave bribes, after which investigators started checking his claims.

The media claims that the Office of the President was included the process of purchasing armoured vehicles and that Mesic, as the supreme commander, was very well informed of the events and that given his position he could have directly influenced the selection of the weapons providers.

In a Media release, the former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic said on Thursday 5 April “that he had not participated at any moment in the decision making process concerning the purchase of armoured vehicles or in any way influenced a commission which made a decision to purchase armoured vehicles from Finland’s producer Patria”.

However, a year ago Mesic said to Media services that there was no talk of bribery at meeting with Patria, but remembered that someone came after the contract with Patria was signed.

At the end of the day, it seems highly unlikely that Reidl would fabricate allegations of bribery and it seems highly likely that people from the Office of Croatian President while Mesic occupied it received bribes. If the latter is confirmed then it’d be the only responsible action by the State Prosecutor to trace the path of that money and where it trickled to, in buckets it seems.

The fact that corruption (bribery) charges in Patria case, similar scenario, have reached high echelons of government power in Slovenia over the past few years is an indication that the Croatian leg of this  sorry and angering story of bribery is valid.

Obviously, while Mesic’s memory in this case may be correct, he has certainly demonstrated appalling inconsistencies when it comes to remembering events during the past decade or so. His memory had especially been misleading and confused when it came to “lost” moneys, in form of cheques, given to him to take to bank accounts for humanitarian aid Croatian émigrés held in Villach, Austria, during the years of the Croatian Homeland War. But this is an another issue, well publicised in Croatian press, which, with perseverance, may see resolution in not too distant a future. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


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