Luka Modric’s Court Testimony In Zdravko Mamic Corruption Case Spins Ugly Outcries

Luka Modic (Front)
Zdravko Mamic (Back)
Photo: Screenshot Getty Images


When it comes to hyping up flames of reckoning with corruption in Croatia highly-positioned, wealthy dignitaries in football, a sport that ignites the passion of masses, take as much of the public attention cake as politicians accused of corruption do. Football player transfer has been the field of riches and wealth accumulation everywhere and while corrupt conduct may or may not be involved the magnitude of money involved has certainly tickled imagination of many, so too in Croatia. The unsavoury consequences of being accused or indicted for corruption is that a palpably large slice of public imagination delivers a guilty verdict long before any court trial has heard or finished testing the evidence or has delivered any official verdict. One may well conclude that this is a product of public’s impatience for Croatia to rid itself of corruption that has evidently thrived in the country from the days of communist Yugoslavia and continued into the modern independent Croatian state. The frequent distrust in the judicial system and courts themselves serves no favours to anyone.

In these cases impatience and the “guilty until proven innocent” phenomenon do no justice. If anything they cause damage – that is quite clear to everyone, I think, yet still – they go on.

Former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic (and others) is currently on trial for embezzlement and tax fraud, among other things, which is currently considered as one of the biggest corruption legal cases in the country. Zdravko Mamic, his brother Zoran and two others are charged with embezzling €15 million ($17m) since 2008 through alleged fictitious deals made during transfers of several former Dinamo players to foreign clubs. Mamic is accused of illegally pocketing a chunk of Luka Modric’s (current Real Madrid star midfielder) transfer fee when he left Dinamo for Spurs in 2008.

There is no debate held, it seems, as to whether or not Mamic was made absurdly rich off the back of the deal, the trial is simply determining if anything illegal took place. Undoubtedly the contracts signed between Zdravko Mamic and transferred player Luka Modric (see below) will undergo proper legal scrutiny.

For many years, Croatia has been a breeding ground for some of the premium talents in European football. From Davor Suker, Zvonomir Boban and Robert Prosinecki, to Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, Croatia and its domestic league has blossomed into top echelons of league in Europe and worldwide. However, despite a bevy of elite footballers and several impressive academies, the domestic league and national team are said to be among the two most corrupt and troubled institutions in world football with a seemingly endless laundry list of alleged infractions and crimes on its record.

On Tuesday June 13th Luka Modric appeared as a key witness at the Mamic corruption trial in the town of Osijek, testifying about his financial deals with Zdravko Mamic.

Modric, who is not a suspect, spoke about the financial details of his 2008 transfer from Dinamo to Tottenham. He moved to Real Madrid in 2012.

Modric said he had a deal with former Dinamo director Zdravko Mamic to pay the club 50 percent of the transfer. He said the transfer to Tottenham was worth “between” 21 million and 23 million euros .

Modric said that after the sums were paid to Dinamo’s and his bank accounts in Croatia, he gave an unspecified amount “cash in hand” to Mamic’s brother and son.

My goal was to clear all of my debts toward him, so I don’t owe him (Mamic) anything else in the future,” Modric said.

As the prosecutor Tonci Petkovic presented Modric with an earlier statement of his own on Tuesday, Modric first asked for it to be repeated.

While it was being read again, he started to shake his head; put his hands on the table and said: “That… That I’ve never said… that it… that… that it was drawn up afterwards. I told you then that I couldn’t remember when it had been done.” Hence, upon being confronted with details of his initial statement, Modric explained he got confused.

When speaking about that, I was talking about a personal contract between Mamic and me, which regulated the split of the transfer fee,” he said.

Zdravko Mamic had testified in court that on occasions of every change to a player transfer contract he had signed annexes to the original contract.

After Luka Modric’s testimony on Tuesday Mamic stated to the awaiting media: “Luka did not change his statement, I have seen it. His statement is something most beautiful and most honest thing ever seen. They injected a sentence into his (original) statement which he never uttered. He said today it was a lie and that it was not true. In London we negotiated the division (of money) on a basis of a civil contract between him and I. That’s where the beginning and the end of the story is and everything else is a big performance, disgusting, in which the whole system has pounced against my back.” 

The case continues but with Mamic having sacked his legal defence team stating he wished to represent himself in court from now on.

The moment Luka Modric finished his testimony on Tuesday you just knew nothing in Croatia was eer going to be the same for him.

That same day, just hours later, there would be a crowd of Hajduk Split fans chanting “Luka Modric, you little sh*t” as they walked to a club members’ event. The next morning, messages started to appear on the streets of Croatian cities – one, on the front of the Hotel Iz in Zadar, where the Modric family use to live as war refugees in the 1990s, ominously warned “Luka, you will remember this one day”.

Well – so much for fairness! So much for “innocent until proven guilty”! So much for the trust between much of the Croatian public and the courts. Ina Vukic.

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)

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