Arresting someone on suspicion or charges of tax fraud and embezzlement is not an uncommon thing throughout the world, so the fact that it occurs in Croatia is really not as newsworthy as the government controlled large part of Croatian media makes it out to be. But very few countries could beat Croatia and the current government’s sensationalistic executions of arrest and search warrants at the time when they should actually be publishing what they are doing to prevent hordes of young people exiting Croatia in search of work elsewhere.
When the Croatian public learned on Friday 3 July that the state bureau for combating corruption (USKOK) had finalised its investigation into allegations of embezzlement, tax fraud and evasion against the “bosses” of the Croatian most successful soccer club “Dinamo – Zagreb” and that arrests were imminent, the implicated brothers – Zdravko Mamic, the chairman of Dinamo Zagreb, and his brother Zoran Mamic, the club’s coach – were in Slovenia attending the club’s training camp. The Mamic brothers wasted little time and returned to Croatia to face the authorities but as soon as they crossed the border in a car Croatian police arrested them and drove them to prison from where they are expected to face the court and apply for bail! It’s not as if they were on the run from Croatia! Their homes were searched also and the president of the Croatian Football Federation, HNS, Damir Vrbanovic, was also arrested and placed into one-month custody as a measure preventing any influence on possible witnesses.
Zdravko Mamic is suspected of taking undeclared commission fees from the sale of several Dinamo players to foreign clubs. He has denied his and his brother’s wrongdoing. Sales of Dinamo players of note include: Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid), Zvonimir Boban (AC Milan), Robert Prosinecki (Real Madrid, Barcelona), Eduardo da Silva (Arsenal) and Alen Halilovic (Barcelona).
Zdravko Mamic, known for his ardent love of the Croatian nation and its independence, responded by saying that the criminal investigation represents “genocide” against him, his family, Dinamo and the Croatian state.
“…The whole world will find out about this and will see that the government which is the descendant of the Communist Party has not moved away from its methods, that is, political reckoning with those who think differently. Of course all this is an order from the very top of the government, from the Prime Minister down…It’s clear from all his public outbursts that concoctions of various affairs against people of right-wing political orientation are rife…”
Croatian TV news said Saturday 4 July that this case represents the largest amount of money that the anti-corruption bureau USKOK has so far investigated. Reportedly USKOK alleges that brothers Mamic have through corrupt dealings, embezzlement, scooped for their personal benefit the sum of 117.8 million Kuna (15.2 million Euro) from Dinamo football club and 11.2 million Kuna (1.5 million Euro) from the state budget i.e. tax. Mamic brothers have denied guilt to these charges and vow to prove their innocence.
Croatian media said that the Mamic brothers are accused by the USKOK bureau as having channeled the funds into their private accounts by taking undeclared commission fees from the sale of Dinamo players to foreign clubs and through “illegal” contracts with individual players.
Zdravko Mamic’s solicitor, Jadranka Slokovic, said that her client had laid out a very wide defence through which he denied all charges put against him. She stated that in her opinion this is a case of a “malicious procedure through which documents about transfers of football players are wrongly read and presented” and that “on the other hand, we are looking at a political procedure that has the elimination of Zdravko and Zoran Mamic as its goal.”
The former president of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, commented that it would be hard to even think that the charges of corruption were an election tool (for the leftist Social Democrats), because that would mean that Croatia is a Stalinist society, and that’s not true – he said.
That indeed is yet to be seen when it comes to this particular case but sadly the due process for either guilt or innocence will not pass through the courts before the elections early 2016. So, in effect, the arrests at this particular time and the sensationalism created around them do smell of political fodder for the public; and that fodder will not benefit the conservative political parties but the ones Josipovic and current government subscribe to. In this year of 2015, arrests on suspicion of corruption and fraud should be a “normal” matter, a “days work” so to speak instead of being unleashed into the media as some sensation that lasts for days! Croatia has been and is riddled with corruption and these latest arrests with their media fanfare for the benefit of the ruling political parties do strongly suggest that it is still all about politics and not about stemming out corruption at every level. To me, whether “brothers Mamic” or some local government officials were found guilty of corruption (and there are multitudes of those) is one and the same thing – equally bad, equally unacceptable. But people of “brother Mamic” social calibre and standing are perfect for the creation of public hysteria, whether “positive” or “negative” – and either does leave noticeable imprint on “opinion polls” and eventually on election results. This really does remind one of manipulations akin to a “Stalinist state” for in a true democracy corruption is individualised and individuals if found guilty bear all the responsibility, not the people or the nation. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)