Former Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government minister Bozidar Kalmeta on Wednesday appeared in court to reject the indictment accusing him of siphoning money from road companies and defrauding the transport ministry by commissioning a promotional film during his time in office.
Anti-corruption police Uskok contends that Kalmeta, who served as transport minister from 2003 to 2011, had organised a criminal group including officials at his transport ministry and the two state-owned road management companies, Croatian Motorways (HAC) and Croatian Roads (HC), and that they shared over 15 million kuna (€2 million) and €850,000 in illegal gain siphoned from road maintenance and construction companies.
He is also accused of defrauding his own ministry of more than 600,000 kuna (€80,000) by commissioning a promotional film titled Croatia's Transport Renaissance made by an outsource company.
"The Uskok indictment is without any evidence, and is full of blanket assessments," Kalmeta told Zagreb's County Court on Wednesday about the charges brought by the anti-corruption police.
Kalmeta said that over the 54 days of court hearings, 90 witness depositions and financial experts, he wondered whether he should even address the court as he believed they all were in his favour.
A long-time prominent member of the centre-right HDZ, Kalmeta has dismissed the accusations from the very beginning of the court case, claiming he is a victim of political persecution.
After the first indictment in mid-2015 in the so-called Remorker Affair he claimed that the case against him was brought by state prosecutor Dinko Cvitan on the order of then Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic. He also claimed that the second indictment in November 2016, referring to the promotional film, was brought against him by Cvitan in order for him to curry favours from Most, a conservative populist party which was then part of ruling coalition with HDZ.
Also indicted are nine other top officials and executives from the transport ministry and state-owned road management companies and private-owned construction businesses.