ZAGREB, September 28, 2018 – The Osijek County Court ordered on Thursday that Blaž Curić, a chauffeur for Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić, be remanded in custody for a month as proposed by the USKOK anti-corruption office.
Curić was arrested in Zagreb on Wednesday on the suspicion that he had warned former police IT specialist Franjo Varga that he was under investigation and would be arrested for making fake text messages.
Curić’s attorney Krešimir Vilajtović told reporters after Thursday’s hearing that his client had been remanded in custody due to the risk of witness tampering, since USKOK planned to question four witnesses in the ongoing investigation, and due to the risk that he could repeat the offence he was suspected of. Vilajtović said he would appeal against the court’s decision to remand his client in custody. He declined to answer reporters’ question about the identity of the witnesses in question.
USKOK deputy head Sven Mišković would not reveal the identity of the witnesses either, saying only that the investigation was not public.
Curić is suspected of having warned Varga by telephone on September 20 that police were conducting an investigation into him, telling him that he should delete all messages, numbers and other information from his phones. Varga reportedly failed to do so as he was soon arrested.
When it reported about the police investigation on Wednesday, USKOK did not say that it would request that Curić, too, be remanded in custody, and it did so subsequently due to the risk that he could tamper with witnesses or repeat the offence.
After the scandal broke out, the media claimed that Varga’s services had also been used by Tomislav Karamarko, a former leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and by current HDZ deputy president Milijan Brkić. Both have dismissed the allegations, with Brkić confirming to reporters that Curić is his close friend.
Varga, who has been remanded in custody for a month, is charged with making, in the period from February to September 20, fake text messages and other documents for a number of people undergoing criminal or other proceedings so that they could obtain favourable court decisions.
He is suspected of having made, in a trial that was conducted by the Osijek County Court against former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić, his brother Zoran Mamić, former Dinamo director Damir Vrbanović and tax official Milan Pernar, fake text message correspondence involving former chief state prosecutor Dinko Cvitan and a judge sitting on the trial chamber in charge of the Mamić trial.
According to the fake text message exchange, prior to the announcement of the verdict in the Mamić trial, Cvitan exerted pressure on the judge in question to find an accused in the trial guilty, without any evidence. Varga is charged with having delivered the fake text message correspondence to Zdravko Mamić, who made it public at a news conference on June 4.
Prosecutors recall that Mamić’s defence attorney at the time asked for a deferral of the hearing in the case based on the false correspondence, which the trial chamber refused and on June 6 announced its verdict, pronouncing all the accused in the case guilty.
The prosecution also alleges that before the court sent the accused its verdict, which they may appeal before the Supreme Court, Varga made new fake correspondence on alleged exertion of influence on Supreme Court judges who were to decide on the appeal and planned to deliver it to Zdravko Mamić so that he could use it in the appeals proceedings. He was prevented from doing so by a warning that he was under surveillance and that police were investigating him.