USKOK head admits oversight, but denies cover-up in Software case

NEWS 17.11.2021 19:35
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Source: Tomislav Miletic/PIXSELL

The head of the USKOK anti-corruption office admitted on Wednesday that USKOK made an oversight by failing to notify the European Public Prosecutor's Office about inquiries in the Software case, saying the inquiries were no longer active and resolutely dismissing a cover-up.

“At that time there were no active inquiries in that case,” Vanja Marusic told the press, explaining why USKOK did not notify the EPPO about suspicions of unlawful conduct by former regional development and EU funds minister Gabrijela Zalac and possible wrongdoing in the procurement of IT equipment during her term.

Eventually, the EPPO obtained information on the case dubbed Software by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), resulting in last week’s arrests of Zalac and three other persons.

“That was an oversight of reporting, not of procedure,” Marusic said when asked whose oversight it was that OLAF, instead of USKOK, had notified the EPPO.

USKOK opened the Software case based on media reports on suspicions that Zalac had acted illegally, but after months of inquiries, collecting documents, and taking statements from some 30 witnesses, Marusic said, they did not have enough elements to open an investigation and USKOK “statistically closed” the case.

But when the EPPO opened it, she added, USKOK turned over all the documentation on the previous inquiries.

“If everything had not been delivered to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, that would have been a sanctionable oversight,” Marusicsaid, dismissing insinuations about USKOK’s fiasco as well as about pressures or cover-ups in this case.

USKOK bases its work on evidence and the results of proceedings which it conducts professionally, she added.

“Following OLAF’s report, the Office requested information and we delivered it. It’s correct that a competent decision was not made. It is the common goal of all prosecutors that formal proceedings start and that criminal offenders are tried,” Marusic said.

Speaking at the same press conference, State Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj-Sipek admitted that they made mistakes and oversights, but resolutely denied that they were deliberate.

She hopes a new indictment in the Agrokor case, which was withdrawn yesterday, would be filed “in the next two to three months.”

As for the timing of yesterday’s arrests of former prosecutor Mirela Aleric-Puklin, her husband Goran Puklin, and a former member of the Agrokor conglomerate’s management board, Piruska Canjuga, and suspicions that they were made to divert public attention from the withdrawal of the indictment, Marušić said defence attorneys always raised the question of timing.

Both she and Hrvoj-Sipek said they were not even considering to resign and would not comment on politicians’ statements about their performance.

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