Croatia: Natasha Srdoc’s H-21 Party nest anti-corruption crusaders reveal ugly side to consider

Sasa Radovic Photo: Novi List

Corruption in Croatia is an intolerable reality that had spread its roots deeply within the society from the days of communist Yugoslavia. The former government’s minister of internal affairs Tomislav Karamarko (newly elected President of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ) had waged a decisive and firm war against corruption.

Charles Crawford, a former UK diplomat who spent decades serving in or dealing with communist and post-communist Europe was quick to jump on the anti-Croatian lynch mob bandwagon that, in the midst of widespread corruption allegations in Croatia, failed to sit back and afford Croatian authorities the trust they should be afforded. Crawford wasted no time in calling Croatia a tyrannical state when he should have waited to see what develops. I wonder if he would call UK a tyrannical state if a candidate at parliamentary elections was arrested on suspicions of having committed some crime? In November 2011, he wrote:

“Sasha (Sasa Radovic) is now a political prisoner of a tyrannical state …

In an independent initiative, Denis Latin, anchor of Croatia’s state-run television and one of the most respected journalists in Croatia and Southeast Europe has joined well-known public figures in a signed letter calling for the release of Sasha. 

Over the last four months, over 20 political party candidates of H21, supporters and volunteers have been harassed, intimidated, lost business contracts and had visits by Croatia’s ‘financial police’.

 The Adriatic Institute for Public Policy and Hrvatska 21 call for the immediate release of Aleksandar Saša Radović and encourage Western leaders from strong rule of law nations to join this effort in calling for Croatia to uphold the rule of law and establish an independent judiciary”. 

Crawford wrote soon after Sasa Radovic was arrested in Croatia having, according to news and media reports, been caught in flagrante delicto receiving blackmail money. Radovic had reportedly been blackmailing General Ivan Cermak (acquitted of war crimes charges in the Hague, April 2011) for months. According to media reports the blackmail consisted of Radovic extorting money (one million Euros) from Cermak: Cermak pays the money to Radovic and Radovic will stop publically accusing Cermak of war profiteering!

Sasa Radovic, an activist and writer (one of his books on corruption and war-profiteering was “Tko je jamio, je jamio” / “Who grabbed, grabbed”) has been described as having in his book accused Cermak of amassing enormous wealth from selling petrol for Serbian tanks during the 1990’s war in Bosnia. Radovic had reportedly also been a member of a group of Croatian civil activists (including journalist Domagoj Margetic, and writer Darko Petricic) pushing for a Different Croatia, seeking that many politicians, government officials, president … leave their positions before “they do more damage”.

Reportedly, Radovic was also involved in the organising of a series of rallies (2008/2009…) under the banner “You tighten your belts, you thieving gang” that aimed to bring down the government and called out against criminals and war criminals.

Whether as author, whether as public speaker …Sasa Radovic, it seems, had been seen as a relentless anti-corruption activist, not shying away from naming persons who were, according to him, corrupt, regardless of the credibility of evidence he may or may not have had.

In 2011 he became a candidate for December 2011 general parliamentary elections for Croatia 21 Century Party. President of this Party is Natasha Srdoc, head of The Adriatic Institute for Public Policy in Croatia. Srdoc has received many accolades in “Western” media as the person who is a staunch anti-corruption fighter and whose resolve in this could significantly help bring Croatia out of the dark corridors of widespread corruption. She has been dubbed Croatia’s “Iron Lady” by some.

When Radovic was arrested in November 2011, Srdoc, though, had no time for respecting the justice process in Croatia – she charged forth defending Radovic and called his arrest a political arrest in the days before general elections. She wasted no time informing the international scene of her “plight”. Charles Crawford (former UK Diplomat) was one of many to jump on Srdoc’s bandwagon carrying a lynch mob against Croatian justice and authorities. Srdoc, it seems, had no time to sit back and wait; to allow Croatian police and criminal processing avenues to do their job.

Srdoc is the first to criticize Croatian justice system as being unjust, biased and non-independent and yet here she was doing exactly the thing she says she’s fighting against.

Also, instead of seeking that Radovic step down as candidate for her Party in 2011 general elections once he was arrested on suspicions of blackmail and extortion she dug her heels in and tagged him a political prisoner of Croatia. It’s a given that one must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but to call an arrest for blackmail and extortion at election times a political arrest is wrong because it means that due process in processing allegations of criminal offences is ignored, purposefully I believe. Srdoc did wrong here and that, to my opinion, strips heaps off her credibility as an anti-corruption fighter, as a fighter for independence in judiciary …

Even during times of parliamentary general elections processing criminal charges and allegations must take priority over politics. But not in Srdoc’s world it seems?

Vecernji List news portal reports that at the court hearing (May 23, 2012) for blackmail against Radovic seceretly taped Radovic’s telephone conversations reveal evidence of blackmail (Radovic was arrested in November 2011 as he was receiving blackmail money after this phone conversation). It is claimed that in these phone conversations Radovic sought to extort (via middle-man Tomislav Micic, former employee of Security Intelligence Service) half million Euro from Cermak  – in return Radovic would stop the printing of his new book in which he reportedly names Cermak, again, for war profiteering. Also, Radovic reportedly sought that Cermak withdraws the defamation proceedings against him. Radovic has not presented his defence in this matter but it is expected that he may attempt to turn the tables against Cermak.

Natasha Srdoc’s H-21 Party website  boasts: “Adriatic Institute’s leaders have made a profound impact in changing the climate of public opinion in addressing Croatia’s criminal capitalism, unreformed judiciary, widespread corruption, absence of media freedom and an economy at risk through domestic and international high-level events”.

It would seem to me that Natasha Srdoc and some of her political associates (including Sasa Radovic) have captured the attention of international, and domestic media simply because they speak loudly in blanket statements (often speaking in general terms without evidencing specifics) against Croatian corruption and judiciary, creating a picture of Croatia that is as black as black can be.

Srdoc, instead of taking the route of positive change in influencing “climate of public opinion” by praising the positive changes and progress made in processing corruption cases in Croatia, decided to bang on and on about corruption as if nothing has changed.

There are many in the world who, for whatever reason, don’t like to see positive things about Croatia and latch on hungrily at anyone or anything that might feed their disliking of Croatia.

But things are not so black in Croatia as Srdoc and her associates would like us to believe; there are many positive changes and progress made. One must behold those while keeping a keen eye on those things that still need to be changed.

Perhaps another positive change will arise if Sasa Radovic, Natasha Srdoc’s H-21 Party  “leadership colleague”, is found guilty of blackmail and extortion. This would not be your “ordinary” run-of-the-mill blackmail and extortion case, this case announces an alarming  possibility that leaders (anti-corruption crusaders) such as Radovic may have devised a wicked, wicked plan: Shout loudly about corruption so that persons implicated or named (perhaps even without water-tight evidence) in your shouting get to pay you lots of money to stop!

Well, well, well – if it turns out that Radovic did extort and blackmail, could this be a novel avenue (a road less travelled) of extortion devised or perfected within the corridors of the very Croatian institute and political party that prides itself on anti-corruption, anti-organised crime?

If Radovic is found innocent then the allegations that he was a political prisoner may be proven as correct, and grave concerns about Croatia’s democracy and rule of law will indeed become justified, if that turns out to be the case, in this case.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

On journalist Domagoj Margetic: Let there be one less idiot in Croatia

When a journalist embarks on a journey to destroy the inherent goodness a nation possesses then we must pay serious attention to that journalist. Not to revere him/her but respond to his/her public allegations in a responsible manner, defending the goodness, free of subjectivism. If we fail to do that then the journalist’s journey sees no opposition, experiences no correction, suffers from falsehoods paved as truth.

Recently, I came across a film clip on Youtube of Croatian investigative journalist Domagoj Margetic appearing on Serbian TV, promoting his new book.

Instead of convincing the public, except perhaps Serbian and pro-Serbian, of the value of his book (and why people should obtain it) Margetic appeared with atrocious propaganda usually heard from the cold mouths of paid political agitators or someone bent on revenge for some nebulous wrong done unto them by everybody, anybody or somebody. He ends his Serbian TV appearance by calling all 4.5 million of Croatians nitwits and idiots.

Since Margetic has not expressly distanced himself from the 4.5 million of Croatians, it follows that he considers himself to be a nitwit and idiot, also.

In this Serbian TV appearance Margetic says the following:

“Our biggest mistake was to break up Yugoslavia”.

“I regret having participated in that breakup.”

“Yugoslavia was truly a European Union before the European Union (existed).”

“If it wasn’t for the breaking up of Yugoslavia, that transitional process, these domestic elitists would not have become rich.”

“In my newest book I want to confront myself and my readers with several key transitional truths: Firstly, there was no homeland, defensive war but an agreed war; Secondly, that we haven’t gained any freedom, because we are not free nor do we know what freedom is nor do we know how to think about freedom let alone live freely…except those who are on the margins and outsiders; Thirdly, the illusion about our big heroes who let’s say fought for our freedom when in fact they’re ordinary mercenaries and war profiteers, criminals … I said in Zagreb at my book promotion who are you celebrating, you celebrate one Ante Gotovina as a national hero, he is a bandit, a man who fled former Yugoslavia into the Foreign Legion … who returned to Croatia not for ideals but for pay, to fight, to profit on the blood, on burnt country and people…Croatia is a country of 4.5 million idiots.”

There’s a strong sense of Margetic using a title of an investigative journalist to mask his personal anger and bitterness (at something or someone) and he seems to be in dire trouble separating his subjective self from what should be an objective address of public issues. Calling all Croatians idiots is a classic symptom of personal anger and bitterness. On the other hand he also clearly portrays the groups that are nostalgic for Communist Yugoslavia, fuelling unrest.

Margetic says in the Serbian TV appearance that his proof of agreements for the war and financial cooperation between Franjo Tudjman (Croatia) and Slobodan Milosevic (Serbia) is contained in the information provided to him in 2007 by Borka Vucic (died in 2009). Vucic was a trusted ally of Milosevic during his decade-long rule in Serbia in the 1990s’. She ran a Serbian bank in Cyprus at the time and allegedly helped the country evade the U.N. sanctions that were imposed on it to punish Milosevic primarily for his actions in Bosnia and Croatia. After Milosevic’s died in 2006 (in ICTY prison in the Hague), Vucic remained a ranking official in his Socialist Party. She served briefly as the parliament speaker in 2007. Margetic mentions that Serbia had shares in Croatian banks, Zagreb bank.

Given the political unrest in Former Yugoslavia, military aggression against Croatia by Serbs, one would expect that anything Borka Vucic would have produced to Margetic would need to pass the professional, independent, scrutiny and assessment by way of  utmost forensic detail (factual and political). I somehow doubt that Margetic had put the information he claims he had obtained under such scrutiny – as journalists should.

He makes blanket statements that the Balkan countries, including Croatia, are ruled by Albanian drug mafia, that drug money is and was laundered throughout …

His comments against general Ante Gotovina also point to the possibility that Margetic is lost in his calling as investigative journalist and should not be appearing in public as one in the matters of Croatian Homeland war. There are millions of Croatians living abroad whose families had fled Communist Yugoslavia – just like Gotovina fled. Many had returned to fight, defending Croatia from Serb aggression while multitudes had donated charitable funds and humanitarian aid whilst still living abroad. It is not a negative personality trait to serve in the French Foreign Legion – as Margetic suggests. If Gotovina received pay as general in Croatia then this is a normal and well-deserved condition of employment in a job which desperately needed to be done. Any objective and respectful journalist, person, would acknowledge that fact.

Margetic has the gall to call Gotovina a bandit and yet Margetic himself has a personal record of criminal convictions that is not insignificant – corporate crime conviction (2002). He was also convicted by ICTY in the Hague for contempt of court – divulging name of protected witness (personally I myself don’t consider this conviction as pointing to a criminal mind as people have a right to know witness identities if such a witness gives testimonies about stately or government affairs); he was reportedly removed from Hrvatsko Slovo weekly allegedly for manipulating the paper’s expenses.

Investigative journalists dig deep and wide into issues they’re reporting on. Often, they uncover corruption and organised crime and this leads to police, criminal prosecutions or public inquiries. At times the investigative journalist will offer their own opinions on matters uncovered, but when it comes to Margetic he does not seem to differentiate between the facts and his personal opinion. He seems to go further and formulate his opinions (based on some discoveries he has made, which may or may not be as black and white as he portrays them to be) into a lynching of the whole nation just because some individuals may have committed a reprehensible act.

While he points his poisoned darts at Croatia’s War of Independence, at Croatian general Ante Gotovina and, therefore, at war veterans for that matter, at Croatian governments or individuals in them, at freedom that according to him does not exist, he jumps into his own mouth freely and publicly stating that there’s no freedom in Croatia.

Go and figure out that one!

There are at least two freedoms in Croatia: freedom to speak garbage like Margetic does and freedom to move out of Croatia and live elsewhere if some other country will have you. Margetic is exercising the former and should he take up the latter form of freedom then there’ll be one less – as he himself puts it – idiot in Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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