Croatia: A Stalinist Lean?

Zoran Mamic (left) and Zdravko Mamic (right) Photo: Ivica Tomic

Zoran Mamic (left) and Zdravko Mamic (right)
Photo: Ivica Tomic

 

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)

Tour-de-force Raid In Croatian Capital Zagreb Over Corruption

From left: Slobodan L:jubicic, Milan Bandic and Petar Pripuz

From left: Slobodan L:jubicic, Milan Bandic and Petar Pripuz

On late afternoon/evening Sunday 19 October 2014 police in Croatia’s capital Zagreb have arrested 19 people from the city’s Mayor’s office and associated business holdings. Croatian and the world media are full of this story, as it certainly appears more like a political tour-de-force raid against the city’s authorities rather than a normal train of events following duly conclusive investigations. No doubt, corruption in Croatia (as with all former Yugoslavia states) is a crippling scourge, but one doubts the arrests require such adroit manoeuvre as we’ve seen from this move instigated by Croatia’s Anti-corruption authority USKOK. Why the authorities chose a Sunday evening to arrest these individuals is not clear but it certainly added high drama to the whole process that stinks of political plotting.
The “Tour de force” (a performance managed with great skill) could well be a clever plot – by the pro-communist or ex-communists holding power in the country, including the president Ivo Josipovic whose second mandate in imminent elections is looking more and more unlikely – to push into the background the trial in Germany against two Croatian nationals (Josip Perkovic and Zdravko Mustac) for communist Yugoslavia crimes. The trial in Germany is as far as I and many are concerned a trial of historical importance; it’s likely to reveal quite a string of murderous operations by Tito’s regime – communist Yugoslavia, and as such snatch away quite a few votes from Josipovic and perhaps even more for the ruling Social Democrats at next year’s parliamentary elections.
So, Milan Bandic, the longest serving Mayor in history, generally, this is his fifth mandate since 2000, has been arrested and alongside him the co-CEO of CIOS waste disposal and recycling corporation, Petar Pripuz, as well as the president of public infrastructure firm Zagreb Holdings, Slobodan Ljubičić Kikan. Also 16 other staff and/or associates of the City administration, which operates within a conglomerate of some 20 companies, have been arrested. Names of all have not yet been released.
The public does not know exactly what and if the authorities hold evidence that stacks up to criminal charges but it is expected that Monday, 20th October – today- all will be revealed in a Zagreb court. Or, perhaps not all!
The following announcement can be found on the USKOK (anti-corruption authority) website:
Following months of complicated criminal investigations associated with illegal practices in the City of Zagreb and Zagreb Holdings, conducted by the Police Directorate and the National Police USKOK, coordinated by the State Attorney’s office and USKOK, several persons have been arrested (19.10.2014)
Certain evidential activities will be carried out in reference to the apprehended persons and will, within statutory time, be brought to the remand superintendent. Applications for criminal charges, based on founded suspicions, for a larger number of criminal acts of corruption, abuse of position and power and trading with influence.
The news of these arrests has dropped upon the Croatian public like a bomb, even though there have been suggestions for a number of years that corruption and abuse of power has plagued the city authorities. People are in shock and confused by the fact that the arrest occurred on Sunday late afternoon/evening when it was clear that for at least a year and half the ring has been tightening around the city authorities; allegations against Bandic have occupied media space for number of years but nothing stuck… all accounts and receipts and invoicing have been under scrutiny and forensic auditing, even the smallest of receipts such as those for petrol. Bandic has been a sore in Social Democrats’ (read: formerly known as the League of Communists) eyes ever since he left that party in 2009 and embarked upon his, unsuccessful, candidacy for President of Croatia. Open animosity between Bandic and the Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has often surfaced into the public as tragic and pathetic. There have been expectations that Social Democrats would destroy Bandic but nothing happened for years and now this arrest – on a Sunday evening!
Milan Bandic’s lawyer, Kresimir Krsnik, has stated for Croatian radio:
When all the investigations are done, we will see what will happen. This is a spin used to divert attention from the trials against Perkovic and Mustac [in Germany]. All the media will now be writing about these arrests. I would like to share with the Croatian public and know why they have been arrested.”
It would seem that the authorities investigating corruption have come to a conclusion that corruption with the Zagreb City administration and operations is not a matter of a few isolated acts but a matter of systemic corruption enabled by the City heads/the Mayor through a creation of a network of corrupt practices.
According to unofficial sources, Bandic, his close associate Ljubicic and a Zagreb entrepreneur Pripuz allegedly caused a financial harm to the city budget by committing a series of corruption-related crimes.
Judging by what the minister for Entrepreneurship and Crafts, Goran Maras, said it would also seem that there is still quite a bit of investigating to be done.
Given that we’re dealing with a very large number of people arrested it’s obvious that there is a great deal of matters to investigate and I hope that not a single stone will remain unturned. And that everything that is still unclear and suspect will be investigated.
So, it’s clear: it is still an ongoing investigation and 19 people are behind bars, in remand pending investigation unless some are conditionally released.
Regardless of whether the persons arrested will be found guilty of corruption or not, it is profoundly sad to see that Croatian authorities seem to thrive on sensationalism even with the serious crimes such as corruption is. Processing suspects for corruption and abuse of power should be something that is practiced every day in a country such as Croatia and not seemingly sporadically by bringing the “big fish” to public slaughter (e,g, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, Nadan Vidosevic/former head of Croatian Chamber of Economy etc) just to show the government is doing something about corruption when if fact the biggest problem for the country’s well being is the widespread corruption occurring at local levels of government and government offices. Furthermore, one must wonder whether Croatia is becoming a country that likes to arrest first and then look for evidence that would sustain criminal charges? If so, any foreign investor would shudder and turn away. The story behind Zagreb Mayor and the 18 others arrested with him promises to be interesting but I truly hope it leads to a tighter control and policing of practices at all levels of government and state controlled companies for there lies corruption’s lifeline. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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