Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic and his co-defendants who are on trial in an corruption and embezzlement case dubbed Agram pleaded not guilty in the trial's opening session at Zagreb County Court on Thursday.
The same plea was entered by ten other senior city officials and executives of municipal companies, while before the start of the trial, two more co-defendants had reached a plea bargain with the prosecution, and were given suspended sentences.
Mayor Bandic and his 12 co-defendants are standing trial for embezzling at least 25 million kuna (€3.3 million). They are charged with counts of abuse of power, influence peddling, tax evasion, customs fraud, obstruction of evidence, forging of official documents, and inciting to commit perjury.
Bandic is charged with making illegal transactions to the CIOS waste management company, owned by Petar Pripuz, who is also among the defendants. He is also charged with failure to pay taxes on donations received after the 2010 elections in which he ran for president of Croatia, and illegal hirings at the municipal government and the city's utility conglomerate Zagrebacki Holding.
Meanwhile, Bandic is also on trial in a separate case dubbed "public stalls" on charges of illegally helping an ultra-conservative NGO to use the city-owned stalls to collect signatures for a referendum petition for free, and by doing so defrauding the city budget of approximately €40,500.
Last month, Bandic pleaded not guilty at the start of that trial too.