ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 – Regional Development and European Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac said on Wednesday that a media lynching campaign was launched against her, and that she had insinuations that someone was setting her up, refusing to reveal any details at this moment, saying only that this could also be part of intra party conflicts.
“After the experience over the past ten days, I would absolutely say that someone is setting me up. I have some sort of insinuations,” Žalac told Nova TV commercial television, adding that she suspected this was an intra-party conflict.
She declined to speak about possible reasons behind this, stressing she would refrain from it because of the latest developments which included smearing her as the minister, member of the government, her family and even involving her children.
Žalac said she did not know what the true problem was. “I have some insinuations, evidence, so when the time comes, we will talk about it. I do not know whose way I am standing in, but things are a bit clearer now. I will not say anything yet,” Žalac said.
She said she was prepared to submit to the Conflict of Interest Commission receipts for leasing the luxury Mercedes parked in the front yard of hr family home in Vinkovci, worth at least 50,000 euro and owned by a company leasing luxury vehicles. The minister did not include the car in her declaration of assets. Žalac claims her mother was covering the costs of the monthly lease, under a contract that was signed to a period of one year.
Commenting on a statement by Social Democratic Party (SDP) member of the Croatian parliament Gordan Maras who said earlier on Wednesday the problem is that Josip Stojanović Jolly, the owner of the company who leased the car to the minister’s parents, has been awarded a loan by the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) on whose supervisory board the minister sits.
Žalac said she knew Stojnovic, declining however that she had done any favours for him. She said that when HBOR granted a loan to Stojanović, she SDP was the ruling party and that she was not a member of the HBOR Board at the time.
Stojanović said on Wednesday that Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac had nothing to do with a Mercedes owned by his company, announcing that he would sue MP Gordan Maras of the opposition SDP party for saying that he had been awarded a loan from the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) on whose supervisory board the minister sits.
“The car is owned by our car rental company and Minister Žalac has nothing to do with it. Had the minister bought the Mercedes in question, I would certainly have known about it. Until a while ago I didn’t even know who has rented it, and that is Mrs Vinka Ivanković, probably the minister’s mother,” Stojanović told reporters in Dugopolje, near the southern coastal city of Split.
Responding to questions from the press, he said that the rental agreement was signed on 18 January 2019. He produced a copy of the agreement, but would not discuss its content, citing the confidentiality rules of the Mercedes company.
Asked how the minister could authorise him to show the agreement to the press if she had nothing to do with it, Stojanović said: “You should ask her and her mum.”
SDP MP Maras said earlier in the day that the problem was that Stojanovic had been granted a loan by the HBOR on whose supervisory board the minister sits.
Commenting on his statement, Stojanović said that he would sue Maras because what he said was not true. He said that Minister Žalac was not the chair of the HBOR supervisory board at the time. “Mr Maras is uninformed. We did take a loan from the HBOR, but we repaid it before using it because it was unfavourable to us, and commercial banks gave us more favourable terms,” Stojanović said.
Asked if he saw anything disputable about the fact that his company had won a tender for the purchase of 20 buses for Split’s Promet municipal transport company, which will be financed with EU funding, meaning through the ministry headed by Žalac, Stojanović replied in the negative. “We responded to the tender because we cover the area stretching from Dubrovnik to Gospić, and we offered the most favourable terms,” Stojanović said.
The net.hr news website said on Wednesday that last October Žalac signed an agreement for the purchase of new buses for the Promet company with EU funding; the project is worth 44 million kuna (6 million euro). It was formally announced on March 8 that the Jolly Autoline company, owned by Josip Stojanović, had won the tender, the website said.
More news about minister Žalac can be found in the Politics section.