Published in Nacional number 443, 2004-05-11

Autor: Berislav Jelinić


The affair which will seriously shake Željko Žganjer's position

The epilogue to the case of the Končar shares and the arrests of Mate Granić and Darinko Bago prove that this show was only necessary for Željko Žganjer

“Shocked and astounded,” was the reaction by Justice Minister and President of DC Vesna Škare-Ožbolt to the first new of the arrest of Mate Granić on Friday 7 May. She was asked to comment on the possible involvement of one of the founders and the honorary president of her party in the malversations with shares in the company “Končar – trgovina I zasupstva”, instead of responding, the minister reached for the old time cliché that the law abiding state has to function regardless of who is in question, and she was quick to comment that Granić began to distance himself from DC last December, following the extra-sessional party convention at which she was elected as the new president.

“Until the investigation is completed, I have no intention of making any comments,” concluded Vesna Škare-Ožbolt, adding that she was surprised by the arrest of Mate Granić as the charges against him are contrary to the ideas he supported in his policies. The ideas that she herself was willing to support in January 2000, when she left HDZ, which at the time was a losing party.

DC’s distancing from Mate Granić continued in the media on the following day, when Vesna Škare-Ožbolt classified him as one of the passive party members and commented on his statement to the magazine Globus that he never would have left HDZ had he known how the leadership was to change. On Sunday, she had already informed curious reporters of the fact that she had last spoken to Granić in January. However, in the most recent article, published on Monday 10 May in Večernji List, the minister went one step further. In response to the question of possible consequences in the case there is insufficient evidence to raise charges against the suspects, she said, “I don’t want to speculate, though I doubt that USKOK would play around with accusations.” Such faith in the law abiding state was rewarded a few hours later when Mate Granić and Darinko Bago were released from detention, ironically due to insufficient evidence against them, and the investigative judge denied their request to launch an investigation against them.

The press continues to hound Vesna Škare-Ožbolt, this time with questions of whether she has any information to support her claim that USKOK would not have begun such an operation if they did not have the evidence to back it up. She stated that it would be very strange for USKOK to accuse people without evidence. As Justice Minister, she was not informed about this USKOK operation, and she believes that Premier Ivo Sanader was also not informed. USKOK works independently, said the DC president, who decided to sacrifice some of her own independence in her media comments in order to obtain a little media attention for her party colleagues. She announced that they would discuss the USKOK operation at the meeting of the party presidency to be held on Wednesday 12 May.

Nacional spoke with Mate Granić at his home at 7 p.m. on Monday evening. He described exclusively for Nacional what had happened to him from last Friday to Monday, when he was released from the prison hospital. Granić ended up in hospital due to severe chest pains, and considering that he has problems with his blood pressure, the doctors feared he was on the verge of a heart attack.

NACIONAL: What happened on Friday, when you learned officially of the USKOK investigation?

On Friday morning, I took my grandson to kindergarten. Not long afterwards, the police showed up at my front door. They immediately told me that I needed to come with them, that I would stand before the investigative judge and likely be put into detention. I was shocked by the news. I immediately called Miroslav Šeparović. At the time, he was 100 metres in front of the entrance to the Hague prison. I quickly explained what was going on, he told me to go with the police and to give my statement. After a few minutes, he recommended that in the meantime, I hire Krešimir Svilajković as my attorney.

NACIONAL: Where did the police take you?

They took me to the police station, and I gave my first statement to them. It was not at all clear what I was being accused of. Is it possible that I could be guilty of talking to someone about the possibility of closing a deal, which in the end I refused to do because of my personal suspicions in the quality and the motives of the man I was talking to? Velimir Delonga offered me cash and refused to close the deal legitimately, through the company I have registered. Which means he wanted this deal to not be paid through the accounts. I quickly explained this to the police. Then me and my attorney waited at the police station all day. I spent from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the police station. Later I learned that it was already decided at 5:30 p.m. that I would be put into detention, even though I did not go to see the investigative judge until after 7 p.m.

NACIONAL: When did you give your statement to the investigative judge?

That was at about 8:50 p.m. Not even after our persistent questions could we learn why we were waiting for so long and who I was to give my statement to. I don’t know what the point of that was. After the questioning, which ended at about 10:30 p.m., the judge signed the detention request, so that I could not have any influence on potential witnesses for 48 hours.

NACIONAL: How did your departure to the jail look?

I arrived at Remetinec at about 11:30 p.m. I shared a room with two people who had heavy drug problems, and one person who was there for prostitution. They were all middle aged. One of them even gave me some legal advice. All the prison staff were very correct with me. I arrived at Remetinec only with my pajamas and a toothbrush.

NACIONAL: What did you do and what did you think about in jail?

I played chess, talked and watched television. Of course, all I could think about was how it was possible that I ended up in that environment. I learned about the media comments on my detention via television and the daily newspapers.

NACIONAL: What was most difficult for you in jail?

By far, the most difficult moments were on Saturday evening. Me and the remaining prisoners watched a show on OTV by Željko Malnar, where Željko Žganjer, director of USKOK was the guest. That was horrible. I am unsure of whether there is any other place in the world where a person holding such a function would allow himself to be a guest on such a show and to comment on a case in which charges have not even been raised. That was certainly one of the worst moments of my life. All of us in the cell were watching the show, and it hit me really hard.

NACIONAL: How do you comment on Žganjer’s comments in Slobodna Dalmacija in which your arrest was USKOK’s contribution to the moral hygiene of the Croatian society?

Unlike some, I would prefer not to be prejudicial, I think that Žganjer will have to think long and hard about the case he initiated against me. After I saw his TV appearance, I slept very poorly.

NACIONAL: How did you spend Sunday and Monday?

I woke up in fear very early on Sunday, and spent the whole day fearing what would happen on Monday. On Monday I awoke at 5 a.m., quickly shaved and waited for my hearing. My attorneys tried to lift my spirits, they passed on supportive words from my family and friends and I was hoping that it would all go well. After giving my statement, I went back to Remetinec. In the early hours of the afternoon, I began to feel pains in the left side of my chest. For the past ten years I have had high blood pressure, and my doctor’s have prescribed a course of therapy. At around 2 p.m., I contacted the prison doctor. She immediately suggested that I be taken to hospital, but I did not agree to go until 4 p.m. I decided to listen to her advice after I learned of the decision by the investigative judge. In the prison hospital, they took an EKG, which showed borderline results. Then I learned that I would be released from prison and I came home to get changed before going in for more medical tests.

NACIONAL: Darinko Bago stated that he reprimanded you when you mentioned the deal that you were arrested for, and that you had gotten into something you didn’t understand. Did you understand what you were getting into and what you were being accused of?

They told me that I was accused of attempting to assist in giving bribes. I wasn’t sure how I could have been accused for a deal that didn’t even happen, precisely because I suspected that Delonga didn’t want to do things legally. Delonga has been trying to sell those shares for a long time. He made many offers to Bago through various mediators, but he did not accept any of them. Only when Končar decided to buy out the shares did I speak with Delonga about closing the deal. He first contacted me and we agreed that the mediation price would be about 450 thousand kuna, which is about 5% of the total amount. However, we didn’t close the deal because he didn’t want to do things legally. Bago never sought any money from Delonga. I never heard of anything like that, nor did Bago speak to me about that. Furthermore, Bago was not pleased that I even had any talks with those people.

NACIONAL: If we assume that the investigation will not succeed in proving your guilt in the case, how can you seek compensation for the damages you and your family have suffered?

First, I want to wait until this case is completed, and then I will consult with my attorneys on further courses of action. However, I can already say that my family and me personally, as well as my friends and partners, have already suffered tremendous damages. I was supposed to sign a contract worth at least 100 thousand kuna next Friday with a distinguished foreign bank for political and strategic consulting. I don’t know now whether I will succeed in realizing that deal. I negotiated with two international organization for similar services. The true dimensions of the possible damages are difficult to estimate now. Anyone could have commented on whether I was a good or bad politicians, but no one ever once questioned my integrity.

NACIONAL: How do you comment on the statements by Vesna Škare-Ožbolt and Stipe Mesić following your arrest?

I would prefer not to comment at all.

Željko Žganjer, director of USKOK (Office for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime), experienced a debacle on Monday at about 4 p.m. which will likely cost him his position and his career. At that time, Krešimir Devčić, investigative judge of the Zagreb County Court, informed the attorneys for former DC president Mate Granić and Končar director Darinko Bago that their clients were released from detention and that no investigation would be raised against the two men in order to find out whether they took bribes from Velimir Delonga, former director of “Končar trgovina and zastupstva”.

It appears that this is the end to the great corruption affair orchestrated by Žganjer, which inflicted massive damages upon Granić, Bago and their families, and shook the business image of Končar, which could result in catastrophe repercussions. Likely due to Žganjer’s comments on television, Granić was admitted to the prison hospital on Monday afternoon for chest pains.

Due to Žganjer’s inappropriate and premature comments, he could soon be facing a series of awkward questions. It will not be easy for him now, confirmed the top ranks of the State Prosecution for Nacional, claiming that Žganjer acted on his own initiative while State Prosecutor Mladen Bajić was on official business in the Hague.

Granić and Bago were taken in for questioning on Friday afternoon and held in detention on suspicions that they sought bribes from Delonga for him to sell his shares in one of Končar’s companies to Končar. Their detention quickly turned into one of the greatest corruption and media affairs in recent Croatian history. Though the media treated the case as though it was a first class sensation, Žganjer added more fuel to the fire at the beginning of the weekend.

Žganjer gave a bombastic statement to the Sunday edition of Slobodna Dalmacija. The headline on the front page was “I have enough evidence to believe that the judge will extend the detention for Granić and Bago”. Žganjer commented for the paper that the case against Granić and Bago was his and USKOK’s contribution to the moral hygiene of Croatian society. He said that Granić and Bago would have to raise a sweat to try to remove this responsibility from themselves.

Then he, following the poor example set by Several of Sanader’s ministers, was an exclusive guest on the absurd talk show with Željko Malnar on the local Zagreb TV station OTV. Though he should take great care in selecting where and how to appear publicly due to the weight of his position, he sat there in his “selected” company and made comments that should concern every Croatian citizen. Enjoying the praise for this spectacular action, he revealed to the viewers of OTV that there is also corruption in Germany, he spoke on the psychosocial causes of corruption in Balkan society, stimulated by reminiscing about the family past of the reporter interviewing him and in the end he thanked Malnar for finding the right words for him to the reporters question when he said that it was “fucking great to live in a state under the influence of organized crime”. With that, Žganjer, like a street bum, insulted the viewers by cursing on several occasions. The question has to be asked as to what kind of country this is in which this man, who should be untouchable to everyone, should appear in such a show for marginal figures, where he brags about how he receives phone calls from Brussels and Strasbourg every two months to ask what he is working on. What kind of an USKOK director is this, who says on television who allows himself to be told on television that he is a ridicule? Žganjer appearance on Malnar’s show also upset the government leaders, who claim that they have nothing to do with the pointless arrest of Mate Granić.

“It would be better for Željko Žganjer to read a little more of Croatian law instead of jogging and appearing in television shows like the Malnar show. Then he would likely known that there were some serious procedural mistakes in the case he began against Mate Granić and Darinko Bago in order to pressure the justice system into securing them a free stay in the detention centre,” stated Miroslav Šeparović, Granić’s attorney, for Nacional. Šeparović is also astounded by Žganjer’s scandalous appearance on Saturday night television. If he was truly in the mood to go around arresting people, then he should have started with that television stations owners, who got their hands on that media in a criminal way. Granić watched this show from the Remetinec prison with two drug dealers, wearing the sweatsuit of one of his new roommates, because he had no other personal items other than pajamas and a toothbrush.

How and why did Mate Granić end up in prison? How did he even know that USKOK was investigating him? Velimir Delonga, the USKOK “secret agent” who together with Žganjer put Granić and Bago into prison, was the director of a Končar company for 12 years. He was fired last year because the supervisory board decided not to renew his contract after the end of his third mandate.

The cooperation was ended because Bago and the supervisory board criticized Delonga for loaning the ‘Sunce’ company, owned by Jake Andabak, 10 million kuna without any security that the money would be returned. Bago claims Delonga was very upset, and that he told Bago he would be sorry. Immediately afterwards, Delonga was hired by the same company he had loaned the 10 million kuna to.

Delonga approached his former colleagues about the sale of his shares worth 7.2 million kuna to Končar, including Bago who had fired him. Delonga also stated that he believed he needed to be paid dividends of 1.3 million kuna. Considering that he offered the shares to Bago four times, and Bago would not even take his phone calls, he tried through Jake Andabak to lobby via Bago’s brother in law Mate Granić, who was married to Bago’s sister Jadranka. In the meantime, the strategic plans of Končar changed. For this reason that the strategic partners didn’t want to enter into the company due to the unresolved relations with the small shareholders, the administration decided to buy out the shares and resolve the legal and shareholders relations, in order to prepare that company for sale. And that is how the interests of Končar and Delonga overlapped. Not knowing that the Končar administration had made such a decision, Andabak again asked Granić to intervene for Delonga, and asked for a meeting of the two men. Granić met with Delonga in his regular meeting place – Mirogoj graveyard. It was raining, so the men sat at the well known café across the street and then left. At that time, Granić had still not opened his new consulting company ‘Magra’. He found the office space three weeks later on Petrinska Street. Though it appears obscure, Mirogoj for years has been Granić’s regular meeting place as it is on the way home to his house in Remete, only two kilometers from this café. Also, the graveyard always has available parking, and so Granić’s habit is well known to anyone who has met with him before.

Granić asked for a 340 thousand kuna mediation fee, and he asked Delonga to pay for this service through the account of his new company, to which he would charge the VAT. It all became suspicious when Delonga insisted he pay for the service in cash, which Granić refused. In the meantime, even Andabak told him that Delonga was not a good man, which increased Granić’s measure of caution. For the most part, this deal which was to be the first for Granić’s new company in which Končar would buy and Delonga would sell his shares, never went through.

The deal was legal for Granić, the only issue is how moral it was, considering that he was supposed to lobby his own brother in law. However, it is not USKOK that decides on issues of morality, but public judgment.

It was Zagreb deputy mayor Milan Bandić who convinced Delonga to report Granić to police after the former Končar director came to him for advice. In his press release, made after USKOK announced that he would be called upon as a witness, Bandić stated that Delonga had been to see him, but he had never told him who had sought a bribe from him and who was blackmailing him. This is a typical Bandić explanation. In the entire case, Justice Minister Vesna Škare-Ožbolt came out looking the worst, as her statements were shocking to her friends, and colleagues in the government, and the public. Until recently she was Granić’s best friend and the co-founder of DC, and now she has turned her back on him. The least she could have done was keep quiet until the investigation was over. Nor did President Mesić behave appropriately, who condemned Granić in his sarcastic comments.

How did Granić learn about that USKOK was investigating him? On Wednesday night at about 10:15 p.m., his friend Mirko Ljubičić called him and told him he had met with Ivan Zvonimir Čičak. Čičak had told Ljubičić that USKOK was wiretapping Granić and that a great investigation against him was ongoing and that he would be arrested. He also told him the reason – the sale of the Končar shares. The next morning, he came to see Ivo Pukanić, director of the NCL Media Group and told him the entire story of his relationship with Delonga, Andabak and the shares. After carefully listening to his story, Pukanić advised him to go immediately to the State Prosecutor or to USKOK, to tell them he knew about the investigation and to explain his story and answer any questions. Considering that Mladen Bajić was on a trip to the Hague, Granić could not set up a meeting as he was arrested before Bajić returned. After wiretapping his phone, USKOK learned that Granić had found out about their investigation.

Where did USKOK make an error? Granić could have been called in for questioning, been investigated or sued. No act was committed and, even if it had been, it is questionable whether this is a crime. Why did Žganjer need this whole show? There are stories that his position is shaky and that he needed a spectacular action, as the situation is not great for him following the kidnapping of General Zagorec’s son. Due to the statements made by witnesses last week, his case against Petrač and his son Novica are quickly losing ground. Žganjer needed new capital. Obviously he chose the wrong victim, and it would appear that he learned nothing from the Ortynski case.

And who will compensate Mate Granić for the damages incurred due to this judicial and media uproar, after he was presented to the public as a criminal and corrupt man? Will Željko Žganjer or the State Prosecutor’s Office pay? Željko Žganjer also needs to be asked what kind of an USKOK investigation this is if Ivan Zvonimir Čičak knew all about it?

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