Published in Nacional number 775, 2010-09-21
NOBILO'S DEFENCE STRATEGY FOR POLANCEC
4 steps to taking down the HDZ
ATTORNEY ANTO NOBILO and Damir Polancec have a four-step strategy to attack the HDZ, and there is already turmoil in the ruling party after the first step
NOBILO AND POLANCEC The former deputy prime minister's lawyer was clearly not exaggerating when he told the press in May that the HDZ "had no idea what they had opened"It became clear to many in Croatia last week that Zagreb-based lawyer Anto Nobilo, the defence counsel to former Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec, was not exaggerating when he ominously noted in early May that the HDZ "had no idea what they had opened." "The biggest criminal law proceedings in Croatian history," as Nobilo characterised the cases against his client Polancec, has already in its first phase, which took place in the space of just a few days last week, shown that it could in fact be most damaging to Polancec's former colleagues in the leadership of the ruling party.
As Nacional's sources point out, Nobilo and Polancec have already worked out a four-step "attack" strategy. The first step is the already observed defence strategy based on which Polancec will also lay blame on his former colleagues in top cabinet positions and the HDZ presidency for everything he is accused of. The second is Polancec's celebrated book of "42 chapters," in other words the details of currently unknown scandals involving high-ranking HDZ members. The third segment is provoking a rift and stratification within the HDZ and the fourth, perhaps the most dangerous, is to unmask the role and functioning of the HDZ presidency.
AFTER HAVING DEALT THE RULING party a number of heavy blows in just a few public appearances, Polancec and his attorney Anto Nobilo will lay low over the coming days and await the epilogue of the first of Polancec court proceedings related to an expert study for which Vukovar-based lawyer Petar Miletic was paid a half million kuna from the state coffers. That should not be long in the waiting, because the case is not an overly complex one from the legal standpoint, and it is therefore assumed that county court judge Ivan Turudic could hand down a verdict very quickly. Since Turudic is travelling to the USA in October, many feel that the entire trial will wrap up before he leaves, and the further strategy of Damir Polancec and his attorney Nobilo will largely hinge on the ruling handed down. And while Nobilo, naturally, would like to see his client acquitted of the charges, Nacional's sources in the legal profession point out that he is well aware of the fact that Polancec could be found guilty in this trial, as it is factually incontrovertible that Polancec ordered the payment of half a million kuna to the lawyer from Vukovar for an unnecessary twenty-page study. Nevertheless, the USKOK (Bureau for the Prevention of Corruption and Organized Crime) prosecutor Tamara Laptos insists on the, in the opinion of some, abortive proposition that Polancec was acting in his private interest, for which there is no solid evidence - Polancec and Miletic were virtually unacquainted with one another, and the police and USKOK have spent the past months frantically investigating any possibility that even a kuna of Miletic's money wound up in Polancec's pockets, but failed to do so.
FIRST BLOW TO THE HDZ Damir Polancec's testimony before the inquiry on INA is part of his defence strategy in which he wants to shake up the top echelons of his former partyThat is why many are more convinced that Polancec was doing it for the state's interest, and this lack of personal benefit could certainly play an important role when a possible penalty is meted out. And while punishments of from one to ten years in prison are foreseen for the abuse of office and authorities, lawyers feel that Polancec's sentence could be at most a suspended prison sentence, and anything more than that would be considered an overly severe punishment that would indicate the possibility that politics may have been involved.
IF THAT DOES HAPPEN there is no doubt that Polancec and his attorney Anto Nobilo would launch a fervent battle that could be very damaging to Polancec's former party-political colleagues. According to some sources, Polancec and Nobilo succeeded last week, in the space of just a few days, in creating complete mayhem within the ruling party without actually having seriously launched their strategic plan, but by simply hinting at its four pillars. And while the first two segments will be carried out directly by Polancec himself through his testimony, public appearances and possible cooperation with USKOK, it is his lawyer Anto Nobilo that is responsible for implementing the final two elements. In his public statements last week he announced that he would seek the questioning of ministers and members of the HDZ presidency. Former HDZ general secretary Ivan Jarnjak could be the first he calls out. Polancec's defence is, namely, in most of the cases based on the proposition that Damir Polancec never had the power either in Government or the HDZ to make independent decisions of any greater magnitude or importance, but that he in fact only carried out the decisions that were made in the true centre of power - at sessions of the HDZ presidency.
FINANCE MINISTER IVAN SUKER'S position has been shaken after Polancec testified before the commission looking into the INA privatisationIT HAS ALWAYS BEEN CLEAR to many that numerous key decisions were not made in Croatian Government during the rule of Ivo Sanader and even after his flight from the post of prime minister, but rather at the headquarters of the ruling party, and the Croatian public has for years known practically nothing about its work and how it functions. But former HDZ general secretary Iva Jarnjak, who was responsible for keeping notes of each session, could provide some insight into the functioning of the party's presidency. And it is precisely these notes, of which it is not known whether they were subsequently transcribed into some sort of official minutes, could be the key evidence in many now current, and in perhaps some entirely new judicial proceedings. Over the past months there has been frequent speculation in the public that the HDZ is out to achieve at east one or both of its goals with the persecution of Damir Polancec - to lay the blame for most of the major scandals on Polancec, who was never truly embraced by the party, and thereby wash themselves of responsibility in the eyes of the domestic and international public, and to put pressure on Polancec to get him to directly implicate former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader for one of the scandals.
IT APPEARS THAT neither of these goals has been achieved thus far - Polancec has evidently not and will not accept the role of the HDZ fall guy, and at the same time has not accepted the "well-meaning" advice of his former colleagues to "sink" Ivo Sanader even if doing so it does not jibe with the facts. Besides, it is not hard to imagine the opinion the average Croatian citizen has about top HDZ officials and Ivo Sanader - but from Damir Polancec's perspective things look somewhat different. While Ivo Sanader is the man who brought him to Zagreb and installed him at top posts in both the party and Government and put his political career into top gear, the other members of the HDZ leadership have disowned him, sent him to police detention at Remetinec prison, laid the blame for just about everything on him, and in the end last week - chucked him out of the party. In other words, if Polancec until recently still had a little confidence in his former colleagues, as of last week he can only be more and more their enemy. And in this battle he has picked the ideal ally. For lawyer Anto Nobilo representing Damir Polancec could easily turn out to be the most important case in an impressive career, because if he does go on to win he would in one blow achieve three major goals - to defend his client, to beat the entire national leadership at a political trial and perhaps pack some high-ranking politicians to off to jail and - which is important to him privately and because of his points of view - to play a key role in the triumph of the political left and in ousting the HDZ from power.
THE FIRST TO COME UNDER FIRE from the Polancec defence could be former HDZ general secretary Ivan Jarnjak, as the defence is based on the proposition that all decision were made at sessions of the party presidencyAS A RESULT OF ITS ALL it comes as no wonder that Polancec and Nobilo had already last week proven themselves an excellent team - while Polancec seriously shook up the top echelons of the HDZ with his testimony before the parliamentary inquiry, and perhaps influenced the political fate of Finance Minister Ivan Suker, and at the same time even earned the sympathy of some of the public as the HDZ's sacrificial fall guy, Nobilo has started landing very damaging blows to the ruling party through the press. What is more, near the end of the week he began making quite open public statements concerning a rift within the ranks of the HDZ, without a denial or public response forthcoming from anyone in the party, which indicates one of only two possibilities - that he has quite accurately diagnosed the current state of affairs in the ruling party, and perhaps that no one in the HDZ is now willing to engage in a public war of words with him.
WHATEVER THE CASE, and while he does have private motives for attacking the HDZ, Anto Nobilo's primary goal is to successful represent his client, and for the moment that means that he wants, as he stated publicly himself, a "fair and just trial," that is to say that the HDZ leadership in no way influences the ruling in the first case being led against Polancec. As Nacional's sources point out, Polancec and Nobilo will quietly wait out the end of the first trial and then redefine their further strategy. If they are not pleased with the outcome, it is clear that they will redouble their efforts in launching a long and exhausting battle with the HDZ leadership, and that means putting into motion the complete four-part strategy, which could cause the ruling party much difficulty and perhaps even see it fall from power.
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