Former minister and 3 others arrested for suspected fraud at Croatian Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds

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Croatian version below

 

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) has initiated an investigation against four Croatian citizens, as well as two companies, for the criminal offences of trading in influence and the abuse of office and official authority. Among the suspects are the former minister of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds (MRRFEU) and the Director of Croatia’s Central Finance and Contracting Agency (SAFU). All four suspects were arrested yesterday, 10 November 2021, at the request of the EPPO.

Based on the results of the preliminary investigative activities, carried out in cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the Croatian National Police Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime and the Independent Financial Investigation Sector of the Tax Administration of the Croatian Ministry of Finance, the EPPO has now officially initiated an investigation.

It is alleged that the first suspect, in her joint capacity as Minister of the MRRFEU and President of the Governing Board of the SAFU, took actions aimed at ensuring a privileged position for the second and the third suspects, as well as the companies linked to them. These activities occurred in 2017 and 2018, in the process of the public procurement of an information system for strategic planning and development management. During this time, the former minister was responsible for both the lawful conduct of public procurement procedures at the MRRFEU, and for proposing the appointment and relieving of duties of the Director of the SAFU.  

The privileged position of the second and the third suspects was ensured by: adjusting the MRRFEU Procurement Plans for 2017 and 2018 to benefit the second and third suspects and the companies linked to them; inflating the estimated value of the procurement of that information system; changing the type and manner of procurement; and adjusting the technical specifications of the software required for the MRRFEU’s purposes to the software that the suspects and their companies had at their disposal. The former minister decided that the MRRFEU would make this purchase at a price much higher than the market price for the development of software with such technical specifications and functionalities.

It is alleged that, in order to carry out what was agreed, the former minister first decided, in 2017, to conduct a negotiated procurement procedure without prior publication of a public invitation to tender, with an overestimated procurement value of HRK 9,860,000.00 (EUR +/- 1.31 million); and in that process, the companies linked to the second suspect were invited to submit their bids.

In order to ensure the continuation of the negotiated procurement procedure without prior publication of a public invitation to tender, and by using her joint authority as Minister of the MRRFEU and President of the Governing Board of the SAFU, the former minister requested that the fourth suspect, the Director of the SAFU (the agency responsible for the ex-ante control of EU-funded MRRFEU public procurement procedures) made sure that the SAFU, in the ex-ante control of the documentation of the procurement of software licences unduly estimated at HRK 9,860,000.00, did not dispute the negotiated procurement procedure. As this request came from the President of the SAFU and the minister who was in a position to propose, to the Croatian government, the appointment and relieving of his duties, the director agreed, and instructed the SAFU administrative and professional services to be as lenient as possible in their comments referring to the procurement documentation, and not to state explicitly that there were no grounds for conducting a negotiated procurement procedure without prior publication of a public invitation to tender, due to the obvious breach of the law on public procurement.

When, in October 2017, the Croatian State Commission for the Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures annulled the public procurement procedure due to the breach of the law on public procurement, the former minister and the second suspect continued, in 2018, to take action to award the contract to the companies of the second suspect.

Finally, after having conducted an open public procurement procedure, the MRRFEU concluded a purchase contract for this information system with the companies linked to the third suspect, a business partner of the second suspect, with the price unrealistically set at HRK 12,991,000.00 (EUR 1.73 million) – although the realistic price of that system would have been approximately HRK 2,000,000.00 (EUR 265,000).  The procurement of that software was partly (85%) financed by the EU’s Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion grant.
The above amount, inclusive of VAT (HRK 16,238,750.00 in total, or EUR 2.16 million), was paid to the account of the company of the third suspect, after which a part of the money was transferred to the accounts of the companies of the second and third suspect, and a part was withdrawn in cash.
In the end, the financial interests of the European Union and the Republic of Croatia were damaged by the total amount of EUR 1.8 million.

The EPPO will propose to the investigative judge to order pre-trail detention against all four suspects.

 

 

Bivša ministrica i još 3 osobe uhićeni su zbog sumnje na prijevaru u Ministarstvu regionalnoga razvoja i fondova EU

Ured europskog javnog tužitelja (EPPO) pokrenuo je istragu protiv četiri hrvatska državljana i dva trgovačka društva zbog kaznenih djela trgovine utjecajem i zlouporabe položaja i ovlasti. Među osumnjičenima su bivša ministrica u Ministarstvu regionalnoga razvoja i fondova EU (MRRFEU) i ravnatelj Središnje agencije za financiranje i ugovaranje programa i projekata EU (SAFU). Sve četiri osumnjičene osobe uhićene su jučer, 10. studenoga 2021, na zahtjev EPPO-a. 

Na temelju rezultata prethodnih istražnih radnji provedenih u suradnji s Europskim uredom za borbu protiv prijevara (OLAF), hrvatskim Policijskim nacionalnim uredom za suzbijanje korupcije i organiziranog kriminaliteta te Samostalnim sektorom za financijske istrage Porezne uprave Ministarstva financija, EPPO je sada službeno pokrenuo istragu.

Sumnja se da je prvoosumnjičena, u dvostrukoj ulozi kao ministrica u MRRFEU i predsjednica Upravnog vijeća SAFU, poduzela radnje s ciljem osiguravanja povlaštenog položaja za drugoosumnjičenoga i trećeosumnjičenoga, kao i za trgovačka društva povezana s njima. Navedene su se radnje dogodile u 2017. i 2018. godini, u procesu javne nabave informatičkog sustava za strateško planiranje i upravljanje razvojem. U tom je razdoblju bivša ministrica bila odgovorna za zakonito provođenje postupaka javne nabave u MRRFEU, te za predlaganje imenovanja i razrješenja ravnatelja SAFU-a.

Povlašteni položaj osiguran je prilagođavanjem Planova nabave MRRFEU-a za 2017. i 2018. u korist  drugoosumnjičenoga i trećeosumnjičenoga i s njima povezanih trgovačkih društava, povećavanjem planirane procijenjene vrijednosti nabave toga informatičkog sustava, mijenjanjem vrste nabave i načina nabave, te prilagođavanjem traženih tehničkih specifikacija programskog rješenja za potrebe MRRFEU-a informatičkom programu koji su drugoosumnjičeni i trećeosumnjičeni i s njima povezana trgovačka društva imali na raspolaganju. Bivša je ministrica odlučila da će ga MRRFEU kupiti po cijeni znatno višoj od cijene koja se na tržištu može postići za izradu programa takvih tehničkih specifikacija i funkcionalnosti.

Sumnja se da je u cilju realizacije dogovorenoga, bivša ministrica najprije tijekom 2017. godine, donijela odluku o pregovaračkom postupku bez prethodne objave javnog poziva za podnošenje ponuda, precijenjene vrijednosti nabave u iznosu od 9.860.000,00 kuna (+/- 1,31 milijuna eura); u kojem su postupku na podnošenje ponude pozvana trgovačka društva povezana s drugoosumnjičenim.

Kako bi osigurala nastavak pregovaračkog postupka javne nabave bez objave poziva za nadmetanje, te koristeći  istovremeno autoritet ministrice MRRFEU-a i predsjednice Upravnog vijeća SAFU-a, bivša je ministrica zatražila od četvrtoosumnjičenoga, ravnatelja SAFU-a (agencije nadležne za prethodnu kontrolu postupaka javne nabave MFFREU-a financiranih iz sredstava EU) da osigura da SAFU u prethodnoj kontroli dokumentacije o nabavi licenci informatičkog programa, neosnovano procijenjenih na iznos od 9.860.000,00 kuna, ne osporava pregovarački postupak javne nabave. Obzirom da je to od njega tražila predsjednica SAFU-a i ministrica koja hrvatskoj Vladi predlaže njegovo imenovanje i razrješenje, ravnatelj je pristao, te je od stručnih službi SAFU-a zatražio da u primjedbama maksimalno ublaže komentare na dokumentaciju o nabavi i ne navedu izrijekom da nema temelja za provođenje pregovaračkog postupka bez prethodne objave poziva za nadmetanje, zbog evidentne povrede Zakona o javnoj nabavi.

Nakon što je u listopadu 2017. godine Državna komisija za kontrolu postupka javne nabave predmetni postupak nabave poništila zbog povrede zakona o javnoj nabavi, bivša ministrica i drugoosumnjičeni nastavili su u 2018. godini poduzimati radnje kako bi ugovor bio dodijeljen trgovačkim društvima drugoosumnjičenoga.

U konačnici je, nakon provedenog otvorenog postupka javne nabave, MRRFEU zaključio ugovor o kupnji tog informatičkog sustava s trgovačkim društvima povezanim s trećeosumnjičenim, poslovnim partnerom drugoosumnjičenoga, pri čemu je nerealno ugovorena cijena u iznosu od 12.991.000,00 kn (1,73 milijuna eura), iako bi realna cijena navedenog sustava iznosila oko 2.000.000,00 kuna (265.000 eura). 

Nabava navedenog program bila je dijelom (85%) financirana bespovratnim sredstvima Europske unije iz Operativnog programa Konkurentnost i kohezija. Navedeni iznos, zajedno s PDV-om (ukupno 16.238.750,00 kn, ili 2,16 milijuna eura) uplaćen je na račun društva trećeosumnjičenoga, nakon čega su sredstva dijelom prebačena na račune društava drugo i trećeosumnjičenoga, a dijelom podignuta u gotovini.
U konačnici je financijskim interesima Europske unije i Republike Hrvatske nanesena šteta u ukupnom iznosu od 1.8 milijuna eura.

EPPO će sucu istrage predložiti određivanje istražnog zatvora protiv svih okrivljenika.