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

25 04 2013

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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.

Image

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





We Are Not Going To Kill You, But We Will Not Let You Live, Either

15 04 2013

Image

Picture: “Medical research has proven that the best remedy against depression is to take a walk.  Should you end up walking long enough, you may end up leaving this depressing country.” — Occupy Croatia.

Sisak, Croatia, Thursday, April 11, 2013

BD put her tennis shoes on, on Thursday, April 11, 2013, to go for a quick power-walk.  Walking very quickly preoccupied with her worried thoughts about the latest unbelievable happenings in the country, she momentarily realized that she has coincidentally arrived at the Sisak train station.  In her sporty outfit, she quickly realized the meaning of why she was here – she purchased the train ticket and hopped on the train.

35 miles later she was in Zagreb, Croatian capital.  She arrived to support her friend, Domagoj Margetic, an investigative journalist, at the peaceful protest rally “No to Censorship!” (Ne Cenzuri!).

25 protesters were present at the peaceful rally, and each one of them had an ‘angel savior,’ a policeman, shadowing over them, empty-handed citizens with often only a pencil in their hand, in support of journalistic excellence.  Every policeman had body armor and a helmet.  Five official police cars were present, along with five police motorcycles.

Thirty days earlier, on March 11, 2013 Domagoj Margetic wrote in his letter declaring why he has chosen Hunger Strike as a mode of protest:

“This is my last attempt to set, through my example, to point out the extremely difficult existential and professional position in which Croatia’s investigative journalists have found themselves. We sought to open cases and corruption scandals, which, because of their political background and because [of] high-profile corruption which are networked [within] institutions in this country, and [linked] to a certain political party, never should be published. So my fault and some of my colleagues is very clear: we wrote what was forbidden to write, we provided the public access to information that never should have become public. In short, we wrote and spoke about the forbidden truths.”

At the British Square, or the so called ‘Britanac,’ after all the rally members were rounded up together, and the news crews presented their reporting to the TV cable news, the official statement was issued.  Domagoj Margetic sent a public appeal to the President of Croatia symbolically urging two things:

“First the public statements of the President, which will notably thank investigative journalists who uncovered major corruption scandals for their contribution in the fight against corruption in this country, in which the President would ask the government and public sector to rehabilitate those journalists after numerous difficulties that they faced confronting certain ‘censored’ topics.

Second, the public statements of the President on the necessity of passing the Whistleblowing Law on the Protection of those persons who notify of corruption and legal mechanisms to protect journalists who reveal those corruption affairs.”

As an investigative journalist, Domagoj Margetic has been publically ostracized for years.  He knew too much, and he could not be paid off.  He understood that it takes only one bribe to fall under the control of the ‘legacy political systems,’ and in that respect he was not going to be compromised.

It was publicly known that Margetic was the one of the first investigative journalist who researched, wrote and discovered some of the biggest corruption scandals in Croatia, among them:

  • Hypo Bank scandal;
  • Political Corruption in the Customs;
  • Affair HAC;
  • Case Soboli;
  • Affair INA and smuggling oil through INA;
  • Cigarette smuggling and tobacco mafia;
  • Illegal conversion and privatization of TDZ and TDR;
  • Case U.S.;
  • Case Geotechnical Engineering;
  • Case secret bank accounts in Villach;
  • Case of secret bank accounts at Privredna Banka;
  • War crimes cases: Sijekovac, Brod, Mrkonjic Grad and Sisak;
  • Affair on illegal conversions, privatization and illegal operations of the Bank of Zagreb, as well as
  • Cases of the Croatian Post, Croatian Postal Bank and the Bank of Dubrovnik.

In America, an investigative journalist like Domagoj Margetic would have followed career steps of someone like Michael Lewis, earning millions of dollars and being successful.  In Croatia, he will go on a hunger strike to hard headedly prove his point, because no one is listening.  Everything is censored.

As one of the Croatian journalists once said, in a 2011 focus group ran and sponsored by international organization, including George Soros’ Open Society, “TV shows easily get killed on the Croatian state television. It is forbidden to talk about everything, including about the fact that it is forbidden to talk.”  In Croatia, censorship is in force.   Censorship is not punishable. Those that enforce censorship are getting richer by censorship, and hence, Croatian media refuses to seriously tackle 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.  Speaking on television shows about politicians mainly means signing the death penalty for the show, and as Margetic has often done so – for himself.  As of today, April 15, 2013 Domagoj Margetic is on his 36th day of Hunger Strike.

Back to the “No to Censorship!” Rally on April 11th.  The group strolled to Pantovčak, best known as the location of the Croatian Presidential Palace where the current Croatian President, Ivo Josipovic, receives visitors.  The group strolled quietly, without shouting and without provoking.  The police shadowed the pedestrians walking and riding along them.

Police cars passed the pedestrians, and 100 meters prior to the Presidential Palace, they stopped the protest proceedings.  Here they stood for a longer than half an hour.  Domagoj Margetic sat in the wheelchair designed for handicapped.  He was too weak after his 30+ days of hunger strike to stand any longer.

In a swirl of activity, police received some more assistance at this point, and invited the group to enter into the little street with no pass through.  There, they collected everyone’s identification documents, and having named the reasons of ‘walking on the street’,  police arrested five or six people who are taken into police cars, including a young woman, Marijana Mirt, who has joined the hunger strike six days prior.

The event culminated at the point when the police fetched Domagoj Margetic, who has been feeling nauseous the whole day.  Police stood him up from the wheel chair to take him into the police car.  Domagoj could hardly walk at this point, and in front of the police car door, he falls unconscious.

The protestors call the “Urgent Care Ambulance” – but there appears to be a strange delay in arrival.  The protestors talk amongst themselves about how a pizza delivery would arrive faster than the ambulatory car.  Domagoj was taken into one hospital, and then to another, followed the whole time by a police member.  The police did not allow anyone else to come with him to the hospital.  From the hospital, after his condition improved, he was taken directly into the Police Station.

Margetic was told by police during this time: “We are not going to kill you, but we will not let you live, either.”

As Seebiz.net reported, “So far it is not known why they were arrested.”

Disclosure: Domagoj Margetic regularly reports for Seebiz.net as an independent freelance journalist.

Instead of reacting to Domagoj Margetic’s requirements, which are indeed symbolic, President Josipovic has requested from the police to enforce a police state-type strictness.  According to Seebiz.net, about 30 people were arrested, and among them were Marijana Mirt and Ana Veliki both who have begun a hunger strike, in support of Domagoj Maregetic’s demands.

A day later, police insisted that no one was arrested, and that protestors were only moved from the premises near the Presidential Palace, a statement, which speaks for itself with no further comment required.

BD from Sisak commented the following day,

“I just want to note one thing.  Not very many people showed up at the rally again today, not even those who live in Zagreb and that support Domagoj Margetic and his cause.  I came to the protest all the way from Sisak, because I cannot watch what is happening in our country any longer.  I came to be with my friend, a man who is protesting in the most difficult way, with hunger, in order to fight for truth and for justice.  Of course, not many colleague journalists came by either, except for Ms. Hana Tabakovic, and we are much thankful to her.  She is the only brave journalist, committed to the dissemination of the truth.”

Not the only one though.  During the last week of the hunger strike, several other Croatian news casters fought for Margetic’s cause against censorship.  A prominent Denis Latin was only able to join the cause after he was removed as an editor from the state-run Croatian television station, HTV.  He was replaced.

On Friday, April 12, the “No to Censorship!” protest resumed in the capital’s center square joined by two presidents of the independent road building union and the national teachers association.  Domagoj Margetic was thrilled and ecstatic.

On Sunday, April 14, Croatian citizens voted, in a low turnout of only 25% election, who voted to choose whom they would be sending as their representatives to the European Parliament, assuming that Croatia joins European Union in July, 2013.  70% of those that voted, either voted for “Nobody” or declared their vote as invalid through various tragically humorous ways.

On Monday, April 15, Domagoj Margetic, after much deliberation, and written documents requiring Formal Appeals, received travelling papers from the local Police Station, which will allow him to testify in front of European Parliament about the Hypo Alpe Adria Group scandal in the Balkans.  Despite his failing health, he will be putting his tennis shoes on, to thread all the way to the Brussels.

He is on 36th day of Hunger Strike.  His symbolic requests have still not been met.





Something is Rotten in the State of Croatia

3 04 2013

Image

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.”







%d bloggers like this: