Former culture minister, composer and orchestra conductor, Berislav Sipus, who had served in the cabinet of then Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, from 2015 to 2016, was handed a one-year prison sentence on Friday for using public funds to cover his private bills during his time in office.
The ruling was delivered by the Zagreb County Court and can be appealed. The prosecutors claimed that Sipus had misappropriated more than 64,000 kuna (€8,500) of the ministry’s budget to pay for restaurant and shopping bills. At the start of his trial in 2018, he had pleaded not guilty.
In April 2015, Sipus – formerly the director of the Zagreb Philharmonic and a professor at the Zagreb Academy of Music – had succeeded Culture Minister, Andrea Zlatar-Violic in the coalition cabinet led by Zoran Milanovic and his Social Democrats which also included the liberal Croatian People’s Party (HNS).
Both Zlatar-Violic and Sipus were political appointments of HNS, and Sipus – who was originally named as her deputy – had inherited the post after Zlatar-Violic’s finances were scrutinized and charged by anti-corruption investigators for the suspected misappropriation of 146,000 kuna (€19,300) from the ministry’s budget which she allegedly withdrew in cash using government-issued credit cards. Prosecutors say she had also spent nearly 100,000 kuna (€13,200) paying bills in restaurants and shops in Croatia and abroad.