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News 16 Oct 17

Croatia Police Search Agrokor Boss Home, Arrest Associates

Croatian police on Monday searched the home of Ivica Todoric, founder of the troubled company Agrokor, while he is abroad – and arrested some of his former associates.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Police at the gate of Ivica Todoric's estate. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Lana SLIVAR DOMINIC/MO

Croatian police on Monday arrested Ivan Crnjac, the former vice-president of Agrokor, in charge of the company finances, his lawyer, Ljubo Pavasovic, told regional media hub N1.

N1 also said the police arrested Tomislav Lucic and Ljerka Puljic, former members of Agrokor’s supervisory board, and Piroska Canjuga and Mislav Galic, former members of Agrokor's executive board.

Damir Kustrak, a former member of Agrokor's executive and supervisory board was not found at his home.

Shortly before 6am, the police arrived also at the Zagreb home of Ivica Todoric, the founder and owner of Agrokor – which is currently under state management owing to its poor financial state – and searched his house.

The police only found his wife Vesna and father Ante. He is currently abroad, reportedly in London.

The searches are most likely connected to huge alleged financial irregularities in Agrokor, which the state extraordinary manager, Ante Ramljak, revealed last week, as he filed criminal charges against the former management for forging financial reports.

Along with Todoric, the police are also going through the belongings of his children Ante, Ivan and Iva Balent, and her husband, Hrvoje Balent, who all lived in the same 16th-century castle overlooking Zagreb.

Todoric’s children and son-in-law all held senior positions within Agrokor.

Canjuga’s lawyer, Anto Nobilo, confirmed to the news site Index that the homes were being searched concerning activities related to the approval of the company's financial records between 2006 and 2017.

N1 said police suspected Todoric, his sons, his son-in-law Hrvoje Balent, and Crnjac, Puljic and Canjuga, had been concealing financial records.

N1 reported that 300 police were conducting searches at a total of 60 locations.

The Interior Ministry said only that the police were conducting searches, while the state attorney's office confirmed that 15 homes were being searched.

Todoric’s lawyer, Rajko Cogurlic confirmed for N1 that he was not in the country. “He currently isn’t in Croatia, he … regularly registered his permanent address at a London address a month or more ago. He is not fleeing [the country] and will respond to judicial bodies, when he receives a formal call,” he said.

Todoric himself noted the search of his home on his web blog, saying that he remained “at the disposition of the institutions” of the state. He also claimed the whole case against him had been politicised.

“I am preparing [my] defence and lawsuits which will … put s spotlight and bring to justice all those who, using criminal activities and unconstitutional law, have created a screen for the biggest robbery of private property in modern Europe,” he wrote, referring to the law that enabled the state to take over the management of Agrokor – which Todoric welcomed back in April when it was passed.

Todoric said his human rights had been violated as well.

The results of a financial review of the Agrokor group and its mother company showed that, instead of a reported profit of 160 million euros in 2015, the group actually ran up losses of 480 million euros.

The company's role in the economy of Croatia is massive, with revenues of 6.5 billion euros in 2015 – almost 16 per cent of Croatia's total GDP – and around 40,000 employees.

Agrokor employs another 20,000 people in neighbouring Bosnia and Serbia, while it is believed that suppliers and companies for the Slovenian retailer Mercator – which Agrokor bought in 2014 – employ around 70,000 people in Slovenia as well.

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