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Former minister and three suspects indicted in Croatia for abuse of office and authority and trading in influence

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Today, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Zagreb sent an indictment against four persons and two legal entities: former Croatian Minister for Regional Development and EU Funds (MRRFEU); the former director of Croatia’s Central Finance and Contracting Agency (SAFU); and two business owners, along with their respective businesses. All four persons are accused of trading in influence, and of the abuse of office and authority.

During 2017 and 2018, the then minister launched a public procurement procedure for an information system for strategic planning and development management. It is alleged that she took several actions aimed at ensuring a privileged position for one business owner (2nd accused) and his companies. Among these actions, it is believed that she inflated the estimated value of the procurement of that information system, and decided to conduct a negotiated procurement procedure without publishing a public invitation to tender. During that negotiated procurement procedure, the companies linked to the 2nd accused were invited to submit their bids.

It is noteworthy that the then minister was also the president of the governing board of SAFU, meaning that she was responsible for proposing the appointment and relieving of duties of the director of SAFU. It is understood that in this context, she instructed the then director of SAFU to make sure that the documentation of the ex-ante control of that particular procurement would not question the chosen negotiated procurement procedure. Although the use of this procedure was clearly a breach of the law on public procurement, the director of SAFU agreed to follow the former minister’s instructions.

Repeated abuse of office

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 two business owners continued, in 2018, to take action to award the contract to their companies.

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 two business owners, who were business partners. The price was unrealistically set at €1.73 million (HRK 12 991 000.00), although the realistic price of that system would have been approximately € 360 000  (HRK 2.700.000).

The above amount, inclusive of VAT, 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 two business owners, and a part was withdrawn in cash.

Estimated damages and illegal benefit

In total, estimated damages of at least €1 million were caused to the EU budget, and estimated damages of almost €300 000 to the state budget of the Republic of Croatia.

Therefore, the second defendant gained illegal benefit in the amount of 2.100.000,00 HRK / €278 717,90, the third defendant in the amount of 2.050.000,00 HRK / €272 081,76, fifth defendant company in the amount of 3.508.628,00 HRK / €465 674,96 EUR and sixth defendant company in the amount of 2.650.000,00 HRK / €351 715,44.

The ex-minister is accused of abuse of office and authority, and trading in influence; the two business owners are accused of abuse of office and authority; the former director of SAFU is accused of abuse of office and authority, and the two companies are accused of inciting the abuse of office and authority.

More details about this investigation can be found in a press release the EPPO published in November 2021, when the former minister and the three suspects were arrested.

 

Bivša ministrica i trojica okrivljenika optuženi su za zloporabu položaja i ovlasti i trgovanje utjecajem

Ured europskog javnog tužitelja (EPPO) u Zagrebu podigao je optužnicu protiv četiri fizičke i dvije pravne osobe: bivše ministrice regionalnog razvoja i fondova Europske unije (MRRFEU); bivšeg ravnatelja Središnje agencije za financiranje i ugovaranje (SAFU); i dva vlasnika pravnih osoba, te protiv nijhovih pravnih osoba. Sve četiri osobe optužene su za trgovanje utjecajem, te za zlouporabu položaja i ovlasti.

Tijekom 2017. i 2018. godine tadašnja ministrica pokrenula je postupak javne nabave za nabavu informacijskog sustava za strateško planiranje i upravljanje razvojem. Pri tome je, u dogovoru sa drugookrivljenikom, poduzela više radnji u cilju osiguravanja povlaštenog položaja drugookrivljeniku i njegovim tvrtkama. Između ostalog je neosnovano povećala procijenjenu vrijednost nabave tog informacijskog sustava, te odlučila provesti pregovarački postupak nabave bez objave javnog poziva. Tijekom tog pregovaračkog postupka nabave tvrtke povezane s drugookrivljenikom pozvane su da dostave svoje ponude.

Tadašnja ministrica je ujedno bila i predsjednica Upravnog vijeća SAFU-a, što znači da je bila nadležna za predlaganje imenovanja i razrješenja ravnatelja SAFU-a, te je autoritetom svojeg položaja naložila tadašnjem ravnatelju SAFU-a da osigura da dokumentacija prethodne kontrole te nabave ne dovodi u pitanje odabrani pregovarački postupak nabave. Iako je primjena ovog postupka očito predstavljala kršenje zakona o javnoj nabavi, ravnatelj SAFU pristao je slijediti traženje bivše ministrice.

Nastavak zloporabe položaja

Kada je u listopadu 2017. Državna komisija za kontrolu postupaka javne nabave poništila postupak javne nabave zbog kršenja zakona o javnoj nabavi, bivša ministrica i drugookrivljenik te trećeokrivljenik, nastavili su i 2018. poduzimati radnje s ciljem dodijele ugovora tvrtkama povezanim sa drugookrivljenikom i trećeokrivljenikom.

Naposljetku, nakon provedenog otvorenog postupka javne nabave, MRRFEU je sklopilo kupoprodajni ugovor za nabavu informacijskog sustava s tvrtkama povezanim uz drugookrivljenika i trećeokrivljenika. Cijena nabave informacijskog sustava je odlukom bivše ministrice nerealno određena u iznosu od 1,73 milijuna eura (12 991 000,00 kuna), iako bi realna cijena tog sustava iznosila otprilike € 360.000  (HRK 2.700.000).

Navedeni iznos s PDV-om uplaćen je na račun tvrtke trećeookrivljenika, nakon čega je dio novca prebačen na račune drugookrivljenika i trećeokrivljenika, kao i na račune s njima povezanih tvrtki, te je potom dio uplaćenog novca podignut u gotovini.

Procijenjena šteta i protupravna imovinska korist

Proračunu Europske unije ukupno je pričinjena šteta od najmanje milijun eura, a državnom proračunu Republike Hrvatske šteta od gotovo 300 tisuća eura.

Protupravnu imovinsku korist pribavili su i to drugookrivljenik u iznosu od 2.100.000,00 HRK / 278.717,90 EUR, trećeokrivljenik u iznosu od 2.050.000,00 HRK / 272.081,76 EUR, petokrivljeno trgovačko društvo u iznosu od 3.508.628,00 HRK / 465.674,96 EUR i šestookrivljeno trgovačko društvo u iznosu od 2.650.000,00 HRK / 351.715,44 EUR.

Bivša ministrica optužena je za zloporabu položaja i ovlasti te trgovanje utjecajem; drugookrivljenik i trećeokrivljenik optuženi su za poticanje i pomaganje u zloporabi položaja i ovlasti; bivši ravnatelj SAFU-a optužen je za zloporabu položaja i ovlasti, a dvije tvrtke odgovorne su za poticanje odnosno pomaganje u zlouporabi položaja i ovlasti.

Više detalja o ovoj istrazi može se pronaći u priopćenju za javnost koje je EPPO objavio u studenom 2021., kada su bivša ministrica i trojica okrivljenika uhićeni.