Corruptia: Ivica Todoric, Ivo Sanader and More Face Trial in 2020

Lauren Simmonds

Remember Ivica Todoric? Dr. Ivo Sanader? Tomislav Saucha? They haven’t gone away with the arrival of 2020 and nor have the stains they and their ilk have left on Croatian society. It’s all hope and glory as Croatia chairs the rotating EU presidency, marking an incredible journey from war to peace in a relatively short space of time, but you can’t sweep everything under the rug…

The old saying goes that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and that couldn’t possibly be more true for some of the big (and bad) names from Croatia set to face the judge for their crimes during the course of this monumental year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 3rd of January, 2020, while on December the 30th, 2019, a Zagreb County Court jury handed down a final verdict in the long INA-MOL affair, sentencing HDZ’s Ivo Sanader to six years in prison, ex PM Ivo Sanader also spent time in Krapinske Toplice, according to a report from Ivana Jakelic for Vecernji list.

Dressed in an unassuming tracksuit and sitting on a chair, Ivo Sanader made a phone call in the hallway using a pay phone. Although the scene looked a bit retro Russia at first glance, the point is that Ivo Sanader’s knee surgery recovery is taking place under the watchful eye of the long arm of the law, because he was brought from Remetinec prison for rehabilitation in Krapinske Toplice, where he is serving a sentence of six years, which was handed to him for his part in the Planinska affair.

In 2019, the judicial process with Ivo Sanader ended, and in 2020, Sanader, like many other politicians of all party colours, will continue to be a frequent guest of the Zrinjevac court. Specifically, the trial of Fimi Media, in which HDZ was indicted, should continue this month. It is a retrial because the first conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court. For Ivo Sanader, 2020 could therefore be important in a judicial sense. The Supreme Court is likely to rule on appeals to its other two judgments; in a condemnatory sense in the Hypo affair and an acquittal in the HEP-Dioki affair.

In addition, because of the Planinska affair, Ivo Sanader filed a constitutional complaint, hoping that the Constitutional Court would rule in his favour this time as well. That is, it would revoke his final conviction, as was done back in 2015 in the now somewhat infamous INA-MOL case.

Should that happen, Ivo Sanader would stand a chance of exiting Remetinec, as long as the recent INA-MOL ruling does not become final. However, since this judgment has only been rendered and its reasoning is yet to be written, the court has a three-month deadline and knowing the Supreme Court’s operation, it is unlikely that the any appeals will be discussed before the end of 2020.

In addition to Ivo Sanader, in legal terms, Zagreb’s mayor Milan Bandic could also find himself in some hot water indeed in 2020. The longtime mayor of Zagreb is continuing to be judged for the Agram affair, and the trial will start in January. The reason is that the existing file will be re-annexed to the part relating to the charges related to waste management in Zagreb. That part of the indictment was returned to USKOK for further processing, and once the charges become final, the file will once again become an integral part of his trial for the Agram affair.

That trial might end during the next election year, in which Bandic will enter a well-shaken up campaign made against him by the highly creative Dario Jurican. Jurican was a presidential candidate who advocates “corruption for everyone, not just for them”, and in April he should present his film “Kumek”, which deals with the way Bandic and his associates, many of whom will also frequent the Zrinjevac courthouse in 2020, have operated.

Needless to say, the absolute “star” on trial next year will be the notorious, once untouchable Ivica Todoric, Agrokor’s tycoon, against whom an investigation into the shattering Agrokor affair should soon be completed.

After that, an indictment should be filed, so it is realistic to expect that the trial of Ivica Todoric and others charged with damaging the concern for 1.1 billion kuna could start in the autumn of 2020. In addition to the trial for the Agrokor affair, Todoric is also awaiting proceedings for the payment of fictitious services, which damaged Agrokor, which held Croatia’s entire economy by a thread, by a massive one million euros.

In 2020, Nadan Vidosevic, former head of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), and Nada Cavlovic Smiljanec, former head of the Tax Administration and former SDP MP, are also likely to know their judicial fate. Their trials are nearing their final stages, so it is realistic to expect that their final verdicts could be released by summer this year.

The Zrinjevac court building will also be visited by two former ministers of culture, SDP’s Andrea Zlatar Violic and HNS’s Berislav Sipus, who can also expect final verdicts to be issued in 2020. The trial of Tomislav Saucha, former head of Zoran Milanovic’s office, who now supports the HDZ Government of Andrej Plenkovic with his hand in Parliament, and Marina Lovric Merzel, the former SDP prefect, will also continue. The two of them can look forward to the end of their trials next year, and as things stand, most of the verdicts to the former political elite could be handed down by the end of next year.

All this is going on just in time for the current political opponents to attack each other over corruption in their campaigns for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

As for a real classic crime, the trial of Tomislav Sablja and his co-defendants, who are charged with smuggling 18 tonnes of marijuana worth 11 million euro, should start next year.

These stories are the type that will certainly intrigue the public with the judicial developments in the coming year, and just how much these complications will affect the public perception of the Croatian judiciary’s (in)ability to deal with corruption and organised crime on any level whatsoever remains to be seen.

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