ZAGREB, March 14 (Hina) – The Zagreb County Court on Thursday upheld an indictment against Tomislav Saucha, former chief-of-staff of prime minister Zoran Milanović, who was in office from 2011 to 2016, and his secretary Sandra Zeljko, which charges them with claiming false travel expenses.
Saucha and Zeljko are charged with having made false travel expenses during his term as PM Zoran Milanovic’s chief-of-staff, with Zeljko having continued to do so after Saucha left the post. They thus defrauded the state budget of around one million kuna (approx. 135,000 euro).
Prosecutor Krešimir Ostrogonac said that the two were charged with abuse of office and forgery of official documents and with aiding and abetting in abuse of office and forgery of official documents. He added that some 50 witnesses were expected to testify during the trial, including former chiefs-of-staff of the prime minister, Neven Zelić and Davor Božinović, who succeeded Saucha in that post.
Since Saucha showed up in court today and Zeljko did not, the prosecutor told reporters that she was reportedly receiving medical treatment.
A decision on whether she is fit to stand trial will be made at the first hearing, which is expected to be held in a few months’ time.
Asked about the authenticity of his signatures on the contentious travel expense claims, Saucha repeated that the signatures were not his. His attorney Darko Marzić said that evaluations by expert witnesses in the case were of poor quality, that his client was dysgraphic and that that would help their case.
The investigation in the case was launched initially only against Saucha, at the time a Social Democrat member of parliament, and was later expanded to include Zeljko, who at the beginning was the main witness.
The investigation became final as late as August 2017 when the Zagreb County Court accepted the prosecution’s appeal against a decision by the investigating judge in the case who ruled that the motion to expand the investigation was not in line with the law.
The prosecution’s motion that the investigation be expanded was first denied after Saucha, as a member of parliament, tipped the scales in favour of Finance Minister Zdravko Marić in a vote on an opposition motion for his replacement which he previously signed. Saucha dismissed claims that his support for Marić had been bought, saying that he changed his mind so that a new parliamentary election was avoided.
More news on the Saucha case can be found in the Politics section.