Former agriculture minister arrested in probe of illegally awarded EU subsidies

NEWS 07.07.2022 11:25
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Source: Emica Elvedji/PIXSELL

Following media reports on Thursday morning which said that police came knocking on the door of former agriculture minister Tomislav Tolusic, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) confirmed that two persons have been arrested in Croatia on suspicion of subsidy fraud and abuse of office in two wine sector tenders.

The EPPO, in cooperation with the Croatian Uskok anti-corruption investigators, “is conducting urgent evidence-collecting activities… These activities relate to two persons suspected of subsidy fraud and abuse of office and of authority regarding two tenders in the winemaking sector… The two tenders were co-funded by the EU,” EPPO said on its website, without naming those arrested.

According to local media, investigators came to Tolusic’s house in the town of Virovitica on Thursday morning. Citing what they call “unofficial reports” Tolusic, a member of the ruling HDZ party, is under investigation over EU-funded incentives he had received for his winery business after stepping down as minister for regional development and EU funds in October 2016.

After that, he served as minister for agriculture from 2016 to 2019, and his both cabinet posts were under current Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic.

Tolusic is reportedly also subject of another probe questioning the awarding of EU incentives launched after the arrest of Tolusic’s party colleague and former government minister Darko Horvat in February. Another suspect in this investigation is the former deputy prime minister, Boris Milosevic, a member of the ethnic Serb party SDSS. According to Hina, he is expected to be interviewed by Uskok investigators later on Thursday.

According to news website Index.hr, Tolusic is suspected of at least two violations in the period from 2020 to 2022. One involves a 2.5 million kuna (€330,000) EU grant which Tolusic applied for by falsely claiming that a vineyard owned by someone else is actually his plot of farming land. The local bureaucrat who approved his application and the false claim was also arrested on Thursday.

Tolusic also allegedly successfully applied for an EU subsidy which was designed to match funding provided by applicants themselves. According to Index.hr, which did not provide any source for their claims, Tolusic faked paperwork that he had already borrowed half of the money via bank loans in order to get the remaining 50 percent of funding for a 4.5 million kuna (€600,000) project from the EU.

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