Croatia: Corruption and Money Laundering Scandal in Pictures — Hypo Alpe Adria Bank

25 04 2013

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Croatia: Corruption and Money Laundering Scandal in Pictures — Hypo Alpe Adria Bank





Domagoj Margetic, a EU Parliament Speech re Croatian Corruption & Money Laundering (4/23/13)

23 04 2013

When I was just a teenager, my father, who was a COO at Privredna Banka Zagreb came home one day proclaiming that he has no other choice but to quit his job as an executive.  “The rulling party is making me sign illegal papers transferring large amounts of money,” he said in early 1991.   He quit his job that winter.  By June 1991, there was a civil war in the Former Yugoslavia.   Some other coworkers of his did not quit their jobs, and this is what begun happening in Croatia.

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Please watch Domagoj Margetic’s speech and questions and answers session on this day, April 23, 2013.  This is the day, when the sun started shining and wrongs were unveiled.

Speech at the European Parliament, on April 23, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/embed/IzkSjogx1hE

Questions & Answers Session at the European Parliament, on April 23, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/embed/C7lvsZFBxDo





Croatian Journalists Self-Censor Themselves (U.S. 2012 Human Rights Report)

22 04 2013

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Picture:  Born in 1963, Lebanese-Iraqi cartoonist Hassan Bleibel publishes in several Middle-Eastern newspapers including Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal and As-Safir, and Egypt’s Al-Ahram.  His work has also featured in the western press – in Le Monde and Courrier International in France, and also in the International Herald Tribune.

The below write up is taken from the 2012 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights. Issued: April, 2013.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law generally provide for freedom of speech and the press; however, growing economic pressures led journalists to practice self-censorship. Specifically, a number of journalists reported that publishers and media owners feared they would lose advertisers and frequently practiced self-censorship in reporting on advertisers or those linked politically to them. Direct government efforts to influence the media were occasionally reported at the local level.

Freedom of Speech: The law provides for no less than six months’ and no more than five years’ imprisonment for hate speech. Hate speech committed over the Internet is punishable by six months’ to three years’ imprisonment. While freedom of speech is guaranteed by the constitution, the criminal code sanctions individuals who act “with the goal of spreading racial, religious, sex, national, ethnic hatred or hatred based on the color of skin or sexual orientation or other characteristics.”

On November 6, the Supreme Court ruled that Vlatko Markovic, former president of the country’s football federation, must publicly apologize for calling homosexuals “unhealthy” and for proclaiming that he would never allow a homosexual player in his league. Markovic subsequently apologized. A court in Zagreb rejected the case in 2011, but LGBT activists appealed to the Supreme Court.

Freedom of Press: Many private newspapers and magazines were published without government interference. However, according to a May declaration from the Croatian Journalists Association (CJA), media ownership was not fully transparent; some business and political interests concealed their influence on media outlets. CJA President Zdenko Duka said in a September 16[, 2012] interview that the country’s National Security Council had done little to reveal the identity of media owners.

The law regulates the national television and radio networks separately from other electronic media. Independent television and radio stations operated in the country, and two of the four national television channels were privately owned and independent. There were no reports of the government influencing these outlets via advertising revenue. Local governments partly or fully owned approximately 70 percent of the local broadcast media, making them particularly vulnerable to political pressure. Approximately 46 percent of local radio stations depended on local authorities for financial support.

Minister of Internal Affairs Ranko Ostojic announced on December 21[,2012} that an internal police investigation uncovered police misconduct in the 2011 surveillance of journalists, including the editor in chief of national daily newspaper Jutarnji list. According to Ostojic’s statement, the country’s former police chief ordered the operation to determine the source of leaked information from corruption investigations against former prime minister Ivo Sanader. Ostojic turned over the results of the investigation to the Prosecutor’s Office. On December 13, the CJA called for an investigation into the case stating, “If Croatia is to be a democratic country, then its leaders must not allow journalists to be followed and tapped in the course of their professional activities. It is necessary to step up civil control of the police and secret services.”

Libel Laws/National Security: Libel is a criminal offense. During the year there were no reports of politically motivated libel cases being filed. A large number of earlier libel cases remained unresolved due to judicial backlogs. Courts may fine, but not imprison, persons convicted of slander and libel.

Internet Freedom

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or credible reports the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms without judicial oversight. According to December 2011 statistics from Internet World Stats, there were 2,656,089 Internet users, representing 59.2 percent of the population.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.





Something is Rotten in the State of Croatia

3 04 2013

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Croatia is a small, beautiful country sitting at the crossroads of Central Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean, with a beautiful serene Adriatic Sea coast that contains more than a thousand islands.  It has a high potential for development. It also has a very high development index, where life expectancy, literacy, education are high (high levels of income are disputable).  Yet, in this 20th Century, there was a bloody war that Croatia was involved in …

Less than ten years ago, in 1995, when all stakeholders of the war in the Former Yugoslavia, including Croatia what, exhausted by infighting, forgot to do – is to deal with forgiveness, despite the close living proximity to those they declared enemies.  Reconciliation is imperfect, but it is necessary. And this incidentally is a rotten part of Croatian development as a state where freedom of speech is restricted, where no political figures have taken up courage to deal with truth, and where there is no division between politics and private sector development.  As the matter of fact, reading the below referenced 2010 report from Amnesty International one can extrapolate that the Croatian government leadership since 1995 has been full of war profiteers.

Longer the truth is closeted, more rotten it is going to continue to be in the State of Croatia. Croatia, however, can thank independent journalism for bringing that much needed truth up on the surface.  Why, every war begins because of money, but in the Balkans people have been duped to believe that it is because of ethnic hatred.  So they continue to hate.

Thankfully, the profiteering and monetary flows have best been described by Hypo Affair uncovered and documented, by an investigative journalist Domagoj Margetic (Sign Change.org petition to support Domagoj.  So now, they can stop hating.  But they don’t.

Indirectly, what Margetic has begun is inklings of Truth Reconciliation Commission, whose members are himself and a clan of dedicated truth seekers across the Balkans.   Incidentally, the ‘truth seeker’ is on Hunger Strike because he is Black Listed by the Croatian Government.

It is safe to say that on the top of Croatian pyramid known as Hypo Group Alpe Adria Affair (there is an Austrian scandal associated with this bank as well), one can find involvement of three political parties led by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Croatian Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS).

According to Margetic’s research (please watch the video with English subtitles) and documents that he has in possession about EUR 100 Million of Former Yugoslavian money, half of which belonging to Croatia,  have been laundered and about 200 elite Croatian families have gotten rich as a result of this.   An example is provided of Ivo Sanader.

Margetic’s investigative journalism brought down Ivo Sanader, former Croatian prime minister and the former president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).  Sanader has allegedly received nearly $700,000 in bribes by Hypo Group Alpe Adria Bank for arranging a loan in 1995.  He has been accused of war profiteering, and has also been accused of receiving EUR 10 million in bribes from the CEO of the Hungarian oil company MOL, Zsolt Hernádi, to secure MOL a dominant position in the Croatian oil company INA.  This pyramid scandal has everyone involved.

Just ask Domagoj Margetic, and he will give you 20+ names of major politicians, 35+ names of major tycoons and other key people involved in the Hypo affair.

Why isn’t Margetic publishing a book about all of this?  He has.  His book, “The Banking Mafia” was written in 2008, topics include:

  1. Money transfers to Liechtenstein  through the Hypo bank;
  2. Ivo Sanader disposed with illicit funds Hypo bank loans in 1995
  3. Money laundering at the Hypo Bank;
  4. Government participated in money laundering through the Hypo bank
  5. Croatian government shares responsibility for the criminal in Hypo Bank
  6. Whom did the bank grant secret loans to?
  7. Laundering of more than 11 billion through the Hypo Bank illegally increased external debt of the Republic of  Croatia;
  8. Fictitious loans granted by the Hypo Bank Klagenfurt served as a cover for money laundering;
  9. Money laundering with the long-term foreign currency bank deposits of the Hypo Hypo Bank  Klagenfurt with the Hypo Bank Zagreb;
  10. Through supplementary capital the Hypo bank Zagreb laundered over 200 million euros;
  11. Hypo bank in Croatia laundered money through related person transactions;
  12. Through secret foreign accounts in foreign banks, Hypo Bank Zagreb laundered around 500 million euros;
  13. Hypo bank through The Slavonian Bank (Slavonska Banka)  increased Croatian foreign debt by more than 301 million euros;
  14. Criminal report for money laundering and concealment of illicit money in Slavonian Bank (Slavonska banka);
  15. The Croatian National Bank provided money laundering by the Hypo Bank through the Slavonian Bank (Slavonska Banka)

Below, you will read about inability of political elite to deal with the legacy of the war, including war profiteering.

Unfortunately this has been the case with a large chunk of Croatian people.  Domagoj Margetic has been called a Serbian agent, a follower of Serbian World War II monarchist paramilitary army (‘cetniks’), etc.

The lack of political elite to release information, provide apologies, establish whistle blowing laws for the companies (which are sometimes government-owned, and at other times formerly government-owned) and media (support a Petition to Establish a Whistleblowing Law in Coratia) is affecting Croatian people drawing them into ‘group-think.’  Croatian elite has done very well in psychologically controlling the masses.

This is why smart, free and independent journalists, like Domagoj Margetic, find themselves on the brink of starvation.  Whereby in America, he would be earning millions of dollars from his investigative journalism work, in Croatia Margetic, will be allowed to starve to death.

Now back to Amnesty International report issued in 2010 (three years ago).  While some references may be outdated, facts and recommendations provided remain, and they call as does this blog post for some serious thought to Croatia needing to belong on international human rights watch.

In 2010, Amnesty International issued a report on Croatia, confirming that while they have no position on whether the Republic of Croatia should or should not be accepted as a member of the EU or any other international organizations, they did confirm that:

  • The accession process into the European Union is “a good opportunity for Croatia to improve its human rights record by complying with the highest human rights standards.”
  • Having said that, the organization continued to be concerned that measures that have been implemented in Croatia did not translate into tangible effects.

While the majority of the report deals with Croatia’s handling of the war crimes, Amnesty International was particularly concerned with:

  • Ethnic bias in sentencing
  • Failure to prosecute war crimes in accordance with international standards,
  • Failure to enforce all relevant legislation providing for the protection of witnesses (in the courtroom and outside, witness support services),
  • Failure to make judges, prosecutors and lawyers fully aware of international obligations in the field of human rights; and most of all
  • The lack of political will in Croatia to deal with the legacy of the war.

And this is the ‘rotten’ part where the focus of this blog post will be placed.

How are politicians not dealing with past?

  • There is the lack of political will to prosecute war crimes cases in Croatia and the failure of the authorities to make it their priority
  • When the three Croatian Army generals (Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak and Mladen Markač)  were awaiting their trial in The Hague, the government of Croatia, instead of distancing itself from the case, asked the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in September 2006 to be allowed to act in the capacity of amicus curiae in the case.  They were rejected.  This makes everyone externally extrapolate that Croatian government is full of war profiteers.
  • The failure of the authorities to provide the ICTY with all the relevant military documents related to the 1995 Operation Storm
  • In his last report to the UN Security Council in November 2009, the ICTY Chief Prosecutor stated that “since the previous report to the Security Council […] no substantial progress has been made in locating a number of key military documents related to Operation Storm of 1995, which the Office of the Prosecutor had first requested in 2007.”   As of April, 2010, when this Amnesty International document was written, no documents were not provided
  • Amnesty International was extremely concerned about the political involvement by some of the highest officials in the country, in the case of Branimir Glavas, Member of the Croatian Parliament, preventing the course of justice, whereby Government waived his detention during prosecution.  On the day of the verdict, the accused fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which citizenship he acquired in the meantime.  Based on the agreement on mutual execution of criminal sanctions between Croatia and Bosnia, Glavas was finally arrested in Bosnia on September 28, 2010.    His seven medals were taken away.
  • As was the case with 2010 President of Croatia’s apology to Bosnia in the Bosnian Parliament of Bosnia, Croatian parties took that apology back in the weeks to follow
  • As a result, political figures are undermining efforts to ensure reparation for all victims of the wars.

Possible solutions proposed by Amnesty International:

  • Amnesty International recommends that calls on Croatia to, in line with the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, undertake immediate efforts to grant the victims the right to reparation, including an official apology, for the war crimes which, beyond any doubt and as confirmed by the ICTY, have been committed by the Croatian military and political officials.

“Amnesty International urges leading officials in the country to refrain from making statements which undermine efforts to guarantee the right to remedy and reparation, as enshrined in international law, including an official apology.”

  • “The organization calls on the government of Croatia to show true commitment to prosecute all war crimes irrespective of the ethnicity of those responsible for war crimes and their victims.”




Overwhelming Media Censorship in Croatia, Croatia to Join European Union in July, 2013

2 04 2013

Freedom of the Press, the EU and Democracy” – Panel Discussion, November 2011

Participants: Denis Latin, Aleksandar Stankovic, Ana Jelinic, Jasna Babic, Drago Pilsel, Domagoj Margetic, Lela Knezevic, Maja Sever, Munir Podumljak (moderator)

  • In Croatia, censorship is in force
  • Censorship is not punishable.  Those that enforce censorship are getting richer by censorship.
  • Croatian media space refuses to seriously tackle with this issue.  Non-existence of the real freedom of the press and speech – ends up as marginalized personal stories of journalists such as Domagoj Margetic.
  • Statistics used in the media are not scientifically double-checked.
  • Shows get killed on the Croatian state television. It is forbidden to talk about everything, including about the fact that it is forbidden to talk.
  • Speaking on television shows about politicians mainly means signing the death penalty for the show.
  • The capacity of political interventions in the Croatian media to interfere into lives of the journalists is demonstrated in the case of Domagoj Margetic, who disclosed the political and bank secrets to the public only to become an unwanted figure in the Croatian society, Croatian media, in his own personal circles.  Resultantly, he has decided to undertake hunger strike asking for Protection Under Law for Whistleblowers, which he currently does not enjoy; and to be taken off of Croatian Black List.  All newspapers are directed not to hire him. Margetic is asking for the President of Croatia to admit that there is a Black List and to list all the journalists who are on that Black List.
  • By definition, when it comes to public television, censorship is a corrupt behavior.
  • Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) has not been able to accomplish reinforcement of the freedom of press and has hence contributed to the decay of the national television.

According to DW magazine, Croatia has cleared to join the EU in July.      The magazine also makes references to Croatia not having met its targets on identifying corruption and organized crime.  DW magazine writes, while highlighted items are by this blog’s author:

Would-be EU entrants have to demonstrate legislative and democratic progress that brings them into line with EU values. Tuesday’s Commission report praised the government in Zagreb for privatizing and restructuring its shipyards, among other measures, while identifying corruption and organized crime as projects where the job was not yet done. The EU executive pointed in particular to the sentencing for those found guilty of corruption.

“Efficient sentences, which serve as a deterrent, are necessary when it comes to cases of corruption, major crimes and organized crime,” the report said, warning that this was the only way to avoid a “climate of impunity.”








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