President Zoran Milanovic said on Tuesday that the latest arrests connected with the Agrokor case, including that of former Zagreb County Deputy Prosecutor Mirela Aleric-Puklin, who had worked on the case, were "a total embarrassment" for the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH).
“This is a total embarrassment for DORH. It is quite obvious that they used the expert witnesses that they should not have used. This is called a mistrial in the US… the timing, too, is interesting. As the saying goes, they are doing something in order to cover up something,” Milanovic told reporters.
Either Laptos or Marusic is not telling the truth
Milanovic went on to say that two days had passed since “the worrying, contradictory statements” by Tamara Laptos, former head of the USKOK anti-corruption office and now prosecutor at the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) branch in Croatia, and by her successor at USKOK, Vanja Marusic, regarding the case involving former minister Gabrijela Žalac.
“One of them is not telling the truth. If it is Laptoš, we should wonder why, even though I do not see any reason for her to do so. If it is USKOK, that is the Chief State Prosecutor, for which they have both reason and motive, they should step down immediately,” Milanovic said.
Stressing that his assessment was not an act of pressure on the judiciary, Milanovic said that “the little trust in the state institutions that existed has shattered like a Chinese vase, beyond repair.”
According to Laptos, OLAF took over the case on which DORH had not been working, Milanovic said, adding that according to investigators, the case was about an unprecedented case of embezzlement of EU funds by the person who was at the helm of the ministry in charge of EU funds.
“The question is why DORH did not work on that case. They did nothing about it, probably in order to protect someone,” said Milanovic.
Disastrous mistake in Agrokor case
As for DORH’s withdrawal of the indictment in the Agrokor case, Milanovic said that a disastrous mistake had been made by hiring an expert witness who was in a conflict of interest.
“Those who made that decision at DORH should change their job. It was doomed to failure from the beginning. What were they thinking, that (Ivica) Todoric’s attorneys would not notice it? It is evident that the situation was created to favour the defence,” he said.
Responding to a reporter’s remark that the withdrawal of the indictment was not related to the expert evaluation but to the arrest of the former deputy prosecutor working on the case, Milanovic said that “everything is interconnected”.
The Zagreb County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday withdrew the indictment in the Agrokor case, which charged the former conglomerate’s owner Ivica Todoric and 14 others with defrauding it of HRK 1.2 billion.
The Prosecutor’s Office said it withdrew the indictment filed on 14 September 2000 to better clarify matters.
It was reported earlier today that former prosecutor Mirela Aleric-Puklin, who worked on the case, her husband Goran Puklin, and former Agrokor management board member Piruska Canjuga, one of those indicted, were arrested for leaking information from the investigation.
Todoric and 14 others are accused of defrauding Agrokor from 2006 to 2017.
The Zagreb County Court has been discussing whether grounds for the indictment exist since the end of January this year.
Last month, the High Criminal Court ordered a review of the legality of the financial evaluation on which the indictment is based after quashing a Zagreb County Court decision that rejected defence motions for removing a combined financial and audit evaluation as illegal evidence.
The said evaluation was conducted by the KPMG company’s Polish branch, for which the state paid HRK 8.6 million. The defence claims it constitutes illegal evidence, given that the company’s Croatian branch also worked on the evaluation.
The Zagreb County Prosecutor’s Office said it considers the evaluation legal.