Ex-Minister, State Employee Remanded in Pre-Trial Custody at EPPO’s Request

Total Croatia News

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Former agriculture minister and deputy prime minister Tolušić has been placed under investigative custody due to a risk of witness tampering, and Željko Ferenc also due to a risk of repeating the crime.

On Thursday, Tolušić and Željko Ferenc, an employee of the Paying Agency for Agriculture, were apprehended in the eastern Croatian city of Virovitica on a warrant issued by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), and were then transferred to Zagreb for questioning. They were interrogated at the EPPO in Croatia on Thursday evening.

Tolušić financed project with money whose origin cannot be proved

Without revealing their identities, the EPPO said that Tolušić, as an owner of a family-run farm, submitted an application for a project for the construction and equipment of a winery, worth HRK 4.65 million, with the Paying Agency for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development in early May 2020, and that the level of co-financing with European funds was 70%.

In the application, Tolušić falsely stated that the financing of the project would be secured with a loan from a financial institution. However, he did not apply for a loan, and he financed the project with money whose legal origin cannot be proved, the prosecutor’s office said.

He did not inform the agency about the change in the financing, and he was granted HRK 2.92 million in aid, it is said in the press release.

EPPO: Tolušić removed previously planted grapevine after rejection

Tolušić, they add, applied to another tender, advertised by the agency on 2 June 2021 for the construction of new and the reconstruction of vineyards.

For the second application, Tolušić reportedly incited Ferenc to give a positive opinion on his application for the grant, although the application falsely stated that the piece of land in question had no crops planted in it, when in fact he had previously planted a vineyard there.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food refused to issue a positive opinion on the submitted technological project due to knowledge of the existence of a vineyard already planted there and due to other observed irregularities, the European prosecutor’s office’s said.

After the rejection, Tolušić removed the grapevine that had been planted, obtained a new technological project and submitted it with the application.

He expected to receive a grant of  HRK 1.5 million, with 85% being co-financed by EU funds, which is more than HRK 1.3 million. However, the agency established that the prime suspect did not meet the conditions, so the funding was not granted, EPPO said.


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