ZAGREB, September 24, 2018 – Former culture minister Andrea Zlatar Violić of the Croatian People’s Party (HNS) pleaded not guilty to the misuse of budget funds for covering her private bills at the start of her trial before Zagreb County Court on Monday.
The indictment issued against this former culture minister alleges that she used government credit cards to withdraw cash and pay her private bills.
Although she later paid back 159,000 kuna through monthly deductions from pay and cash payments into the ministry’s treasury, Zlatar Violić defrauded the state budget of 99,000 kuna, the USKOK anti-corruption office said in the indictment.
USKOK claims that Zlatar Violić withdrew 146,000 kuna using government credit cards and incurred an additional cost of 4,766 kuna in total for cash withdrawal fees. She also spent nearly 100,000 kuna paying private bills in restaurants and shops in Croatia and abroad.
The indictment covers the period from March 2012 to March 2015 when she resigned.
Zlatar Violić said today that she refuted material evidence as incorrect. Her defence is going to be based on the claims that the Culture Ministry has no precise rule book about business entertainment and representational costs, and she insists that she spent that money only for the ministry’s entertainment costs.
Zlatar Violić was succeeded in her post by her deputy Berislav Šipuš, who is also charged with defrauding the state budget of at least 68,000 kuna. At the start of his trial in June, Šipuš also pleaded not guilty.
Upon her resignation as the culture minister, then Foreign Minister and Croatian People’s Party (HNS) chief Vesna Pusić said that Zlatar Violić had resigned because she accepted the consequences of irregular operations in the Culture Ministry.
“She has resigned because she assumes responsibility and that is the consequence of the irregular operations that occurred. I hope that everyone will respect those standards from now on and if such a situation should occur again that they will behave the same way she did,” Pusić told reporters in 2015.