Testifying in the trial of former prime minister Zoran Milanovic's chief of staff, Tomislav Saucha, and his secretary Sanda Zeljko, charged with falsifying travel orders and pocketing HRK 1 million in the process, Neven Budak, a former advisor to Milanovic, confirmed on Friday that someone had forged his signatures on 44 travel orders.
"At the time when I was the prime minister's special advisor on science and education I travelled only once, to Sydney, when a Croatian language department was opened there. When I returned, secretary Sandra Zeljko told me that I should not write any report or calculate the costs, which I found odd because as the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences I knew how travel expenses are calculated," Budak said, adding that he arranged the details of his trip with the secretary and received an advance payment for his trip from her.
When shown a travel order from the case file with his name on it, Budak said that the signature on it was not his. Also, he added that the signatures on some of the total of 44 travel orders did not resemble his signature at all, and that on some travel orders someone had attempted to imitate his signature.
The court today also heard Sinisa Petrovic, a former special advisor to former PM Milanovic, who said that during the investigation in the case he had checked his travel orders and signatures and realised that those orders referred to trips in 2015 and 2016 which he did not go on and that the signature on the orders was not his.
Neven Pelicaric, Milanovic's former advisor on foreign affairs and current Ambassador to the Holy See, said that he had not taken part in organised trips that did not include Milanovic and that he did not know what role Zeljko had in their organisation.
He described the relationship between Saucha and Zeljko as official and professional and not close.
At the start of their trial, Saucha and Zeljko pleaded not guilty to the charges of falsifying travel orders and defrauding the state budget of HRK 960,000 (€130,000).
Saucha is charged with falsifying travel orders in collusion with Zeljko, who the prosecution alleges continued doing so after Saucha left office.