ZAGREB, May 25, 2018 – The Croatian Supreme Court has ruled for a second time that Zagreb County Court judge Ivan Turudić should not have rejected a plea-bargain between businessman Željko Žužić and the USKOK anti-corruption office, upholding the ruling in the case based on the earlier plea-bargain.
The Supreme Court upheld the plea-bargain after the Chief State Prosecutor filed a motion for the protection of the lawfulness of the proceedings following Turudić’s decision in March this year to again reject USKOK’s plea-bargain with Žužić.
Žužić, a co-defendant in a case against former Sisak County head and former Social Democratic Party (SDP) member Marina Lovrić Merzel, had admitted to having given Lovrić Merzel a bribe of 100,000 euros.
USKOK charged Lovrić Merzel and her five co-defendants with several counts of financial wrongdoing, including bribe taking, money laundering, and financial mismanagement.
After his admission, Žužić signed a plea-bargain with USKOK under which he was to be given a conditional sentence of one year in prison with four years’ probation.
In mid-2016 Turudić rejected the plea-bargain, explaining that the punishment was incommensurate to the criminal act, prompting USKOK to file its first motion for the protection of the lawfulness of the proceedings, which the Supreme Court granted at the end of 2017.
In its ruling the Supreme Court also noted that courts should not intervene in the content of plea-bargains between defendants and prosecutors or in the circumstances of a case but rather only ensure their lawfulness.
Even though the Supreme Court quashed the first decision on Žužić’s plea-bargain and returned the case for a retrial, Turudić in March this year again rejected the plea-bargain, after which USKOK requested his exemption as the judge in charge of the case and as the president of the Zagreb County Court. Since Turudić refused to exempt himself, prosecutors walked out of the trial on two occasions, filing a motion for Turudić’s exemption with the Supreme Court, which dismissed it.