Published in Nacional number 773, 2010-09-07

Autor: Berislav Jelinić


Jakovcic and Haider's Istrian connection

THE AUSTRIAN INVESTIGATION into the Hypo Alpe Adria Bank scandal is focusing increasingly on the shady projects the bank's top management ran in Istria County, and Istria County Prefect Ivan Jakovcic is suspected of having been involved

BARBARIGA AND DRAGONERA Istria County Prefect Ivan Jakovcic said that he was at meetings with the top management of the Hypo bank, but denied having played a role in the Barbariga and Dragonera scandalBARBARIGA AND DRAGONERA Istria County Prefect Ivan Jakovcic said that he was at meetings with the top management of the Hypo bank, but denied having played a role in the Barbariga and Dragonera scandalAustrian investigators are increasingly focusing their efforts on projects that the Hypo Alpe Adria Group backed financially in Istria County, Nacional has learned from informed Austrian sources. Austrian investigators are interested above all in whether there were irregularities in the initial phases of the Barbariga and Dragonera project, which some business circles claim is the key political project undertaken by Istria County Prefect Ivan Jakovcic. The project has once again drawn the attention of Austrian investigators because Detlev Neudeck, the former treasurer of Haider's Freedom Party and a person that it is believed could fully shed light in Austria on how Haider extracted money from the Hypo Alpe Adria Group and then spent it on untransparent party financing and his personal activities, was involved in its initial phases.
The same sources say that it was Neudeck in fact, together with Wolfgang Kulterer and Gunter Striedinger, that worked out the Haider party finances with the help of the Hypo Alpe Adria Group, and is informed about most of the secret deals that earned a handful of privileged persons millions and set the bank on the route to its eventual nationalisation at the expense of Austrian and German taxpayers.

THE WORD IS THAT in Austria Neudeck is now under pressure to speak out about all of Haider's secrets in connection with the Hypo bank, and that there is an attempt to effectuate this by a repeated analysis of the Barbariga and Dragonera project. It is all very interesting for Croatia because the pressure on Neudeck could create political embarrassment for Istria County politicians. The Barbariga and Dragonera project is a scandalous episode in the Hypo Alpe Adria bank affair, as it is mentioned among a number of similar projects through which privileged persons laundered and extracted massive quantities of money spending lines of credit on expenses they were not awarded for- lines of credit awarded, often to themselves, by the former management of the Hypo bank. The construction of a luxury tourist resort, hotel and golf course has been almost a decade in the waiting in the Barbariga and Dragonera area. Practically nothing has been done to this day, but almost 80 million euro of Hypo bank loans has been spent.

AT ONE POINT former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader got directly involved, inviting the heads of the luxury Kempinski chain of hotels, Reto Wittwer and Michel Novatin, to visit him in Croatia. Sanader gave them guarantees that the project would be completed, after which the heads of Kempinski signed on to the effect that they would manage the tourism complex that was to be built. That is why it was suspected that Sanader too could have had personal benefit from the arrangement - doubts that were reinforced when it was taken into consideration that the project was partly owned by Wolfgang Kulterer, the former head of the Hypo Alpe Adria Group, who is considered a close Sanader friend from back in his days as a student in Austria.

BECAUSE OF THESE PROJECTS criminal charges have been filed in Austria against Kulterer and his Austrian colleague Gunter Striedinger. The project has long been considered one of the most palpable examples of why the Hypo Alpe Adria Group had to be bailed out with almost 7 billion euro in German and Austrian taxpayer money. In the meantime the project got a new owner, one that has put an end to this mysterious saga - businessman Danko Koncar. He paid 80 million euro for a 25 percent stake in the project, and has allegedly won the remaining 75 percent of ownership for the price of one euro, but it remains unknown under what circumstances. And while the saga has, on the face of it, ended with the Koncar investment, Austrian investigators want to reconstruct what role Neudeck played in the initial phase of the project. Several people have made excellent profits on it, but the question that has now surfaced is whether the Hypo bank suffered damages as a result. In 2000 Neudeck purchased 347 thousand square metres of land on a pristine stretch of seashore in the Barbariga and Dragonera area near Vodnjan at a price of 5.12 euro per square metre. That was followed by a subsequent purchase of 751 thousand square metres at 7.35 euro per square metre. It was not long afterwards that the land was re-zoned as construction land, which saw its price shoot up by a factor of almost 200. There are claims that some of the land was initially owned only by Neudeck. He then sold ownership of the land to the Darija and AB Maris companies. They are alleged to both be under 50 percent ownership of the Hypo bank, with 25 percent stakes held by Klagenfurt-based lawyer Gerhard Kucher and the Tecto company, allegedly owned by Neudeck. A few years ago Wolfgang Kulterer admitted in an interview for the Glas Istre daily that the re-zoning of the land had been pre-arranged. The director of the AB Maris company at the time was high-ranking IDS (Istrian Democratic Assembly) party functionary Stevo Zufic. Nacional has learned from informed Austrian sources that the project is a wonderful illustration of why the Hypo Alpe Adria Group produced several billion euro in losses as a result of risky investment. At the time the Hypo bank had financed the same project several times. Neudeck is alleged to have reaped a healthy profit the first time round, the first to get on board the project and to invest in a natural area protected by law that was not zoned for construction. This was followed by an untransparent re-zoning of the purchased land, making it construction land, perhaps after local officials had been bribed. In the second phase the project was once again sold, but at a much higher price, and it was all financed again by the same bank. These kinds of projects helped finance the Haider party, and the proceeds were allegedly divvied up among the members of the bank management, and maybe to someone in Croatia who saw to it that the land was re-zoned.

INFORMED AUSTRIAN sources say that Neudeck could, under pressure from investigators, become the best source of information to shed light on the entire Hypo scandal, because he was very close to Jorg Haider and in the know when it came to all of the secrets of Haider's influence on the bank's operations. The operations of the Hypo bank in Istria County recently got the spotlight of attention after the arrest of Wolfgang Kulterer. IDS Member of Parliament Damir Kajin held a press conference not long after the arrest at which he spoke only of the Hypo scandal, indirectly defending his party boss Ivan Jakovcic. "I imagine that the arrest of Wolfgang Kulterer, the former CEO of the Hypo Alpe Adria bank, does not concern him in the least. Were Jakovcic in any way embroiled in the Hypo bank scandal, Austrian President Hans Fischer would not, after the Austrian state had bailed out the Hypo bank and after it had explored all of its money trails, award him a high Austrian decoration." In a recent interview for Playboy Jakovcic also spoke of the topic, saying that he was personally most interested that the story be cleared up as soon as possible. Jakovcic also said that he had been present at several meetings with the bank's leadership, that he had criticised the bank's operations at these meetings, but he also in part applauded the arrival of the bank in Croatia, as the bank at the time provided very favourable loans to tourism industry firms in Istria County. Now some of these loans are being carefully examined in Austria, and particular attention is being paid to persons that could have influenced the decisions of the Hypo bank in Istria County.DETLEV NEUDECK, the former treasurer of Haider's Freedom Party is now under investigation because of his knowledge of all of the secrets of Haider's connections with the Hypo bank — in 2000 Neudeck purchased land near the town of Vodnjan that was subsequently re-zoned for constructionDETLEV NEUDECK, the former treasurer of Haider's Freedom Party is now under investigation because of his knowledge of all of the secrets of Haider's connections with the Hypo bank — in 2000 Neudeck purchased land near the town of Vodnjan that was subsequently re-zoned for construction That is why there is a re-analysis underway of a covert November 2007 espionage report on the operations and internal relations at the bank that details the alleged roles and influence individuals in Istria County had on the operations of the Hypo bank, and which was probably commissioned by the Bayerische Landesbank not long after it purchased a stake in the bank with the aim of better understanding the nature of the business adventure it had embarked upon.

THE REPORT, among other things, states that, "It should be noted that the sale of Barbariga and Dragonera was personally, to the benefit of the Hypo Alpe Adria bank, seen to by Ivan Jakovcic. To return the favour the Hypo Alpe Adria bank provided Jakovcic a 2 million euro loan for the sale of Arenaturist at the intervention of Milan Naperotic, who was a member of the company's supervisory board." The same report states that the key people besides Jakovcic for the operations of the Hypo bank in the area were Milan Naperotic and Vladimir Bernes. Nacional has learned from several sources that Naperotic and Bernes led all of the major Hypo Alpe Adria bank operations in Istria County from the background, and that they took part in numerous dubious activities in collusion with some Istria County politicians. These relations are now again under scrutiny, and it could lead to political fallout for Ivan Jakovcic. Which is why it comes as no surprise that members of his political party and he himself have of late made ever more frequent statements concerning their take on the Hypo scandal.

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