The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) indicted on Thursday (29 December) a former Croatian minister, two businessmen, and the former director of a national financial agency for “trading in influence and the abuse of office and authority”.
Former EU funds minister Gabrijela Žalac, arrested in November last year, is the top indictee.
Žalac, with the director of the Central Finance and Contracting Agency, Tomislav Petric, and two business owners, was apprehended as part of operation “Software” conducted by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Croatia.
A statement by the EPPO’s office in Zagreb, issued on Thursday, detailed the suspected offences, including an attempt to award a public procurement operation for a software system to one of the indictees without a public tender, and then rigging the price of a subsequent tender.
“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,” the EPPO statement said.
The arrests last year prompted an outcry among the political opposition in the country, who called it a “serious crisis in the government”, but the ruling conservative HDZ party shrugged it off, and it remains by far the most popular party in Croatia, according to surveys.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]