ZAGREB, February 18, 2019 – The anti-corruption investigation agency USKOK has indicted Franjo Varga, a former police IT specialist, and Blaž Curić, a former chauffeur for Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić, for obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting in the obstruction of justice in the so-called fake text messages scandal, recommending an extension of custody for both defendants.
Under the indictment, filed with the Osijek County Court, in the period from mid-2017 to September 20, 2018, Varga made fake electronic correspondence of purported communication between high state officials and other persons in order to obstruct justice in the trial of former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić and three other defendants in that case as well as in a case involving the extradition of businessman Ivica Todorić from Great Britain to Croatia.
The purpose of the fake correspondence was to show that individual state officials had conspired to have the persons concerned indicted and exerted pressure on other judicial officials to have them convicted without any evidence. This was to be used to show that their right to a free trial had been violated.
Curić is charged with providing Varga with necessary information in the form of phone numbers of individual officials and other persons.
Varga is charged with fabricating SMS correspondence between former chief state prosecutor Dinko Cvitan and a judge who sat on an Osijek County Court panel which tried Mamić, his brother Zoran, former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović and tax official Milan Pernar. According to the correspondence, before the first instance verdict was delivered, Cvitan pressured the judge into convicting one of the defendants without any evidence.
Under the indictment, Varga gave the fake texts to Mamić, who made them public at a press conference on June 4, 2018. Mamić’s attorney then requested that the verdict be postponed, but the panel refused, finding all defendants guilty on June 6 pending appeal.
Varga is also suspected of fabricating another SMS correspondence alleging influence on Supreme Court judges so that Mamić could use it in appellate proceedings.
He was supposed to give the correspondence to Mamić but was tipped off by Curić that he was under investigation.
Curić was arrested on 26 September 2018 in Zagreb on suspicion of warning Varga by phone on September 20 that he was about to be arrested and that he should delete all his phone numbers, messages and other content.
Both Varga and Curić were recently again questioned by USKOK investigators in Osijek and according to media reports, Curić is no longer charged with inciting but aiding and abetting in the obstruction of justice.
After the scandal broke, media claimed that Varga’s services were also used by the former leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Tomislav Karamarko, as well as HDZ vice-president and Deputy Parliament Speaker Milijan Brkić, who both dismissed the allegations.
The Osijek County Court will decide on the indictment on Tuesday, given that Varga and Curić’s custody, set on 19 December 2018, expires on February 19.
More news on the scandal can be found in the Politics section.