Published in Nacional number 648, 2008-04-15

Autor: Ivo Pukanić


Brutal attempt at murder on Ilica Street

A dramatic revelation from NCL CEO Ivo Pukanic about the attempt on his life Wednesday night and of the events that preceded the treacherous assassination attempt

"Mr. Pukanic, on the ninth of April 2008 you were born again. There was a one in a million chance of your surviving this brutal attempt at your murder. The investigation and the subsequent police expertise have confirmed that you gave a very precise description of the your attempted assassination. We can only laugh at all of the possible absurdities of your fellow journalists who have written nonsense and have attempted to portray the assassination attempt as a staged one. I think that many of your colleagues should be ashamed of themselves when we reveal all of the facts and the background to the event after the case has been closed. Nevertheless, the most important thing of all is that you got out of it alive, which can only be attributed to God’s providence." That was what a high-ranking official at the interior ministry told me late in the afternoon on Saturday, three days after the shots were fired at me, during questioning at the Police Department headquarters on Heinzelova street. How did it all happen?

On Wednesday 9 April I had been returning home on my customary route. I was later able to reconstruct how the entire event took place to the minute based on recorded telephone calls. At 11:50 pm I turned onto Ilica from Primorska Street and after about a hundred metres descended into my basement garage. After I had shut all of the doors behind me suing a remote key, I made my way through the yard to the apartment, and was again on Ilica Street in under a minute. After I had exited from the garage and the darkened yard, which had always made me uneasy, it was a relief to step on the lit sidewalk, whereupon I immediately started to put the earphones of my iPhone on, to tell my daughter that I was coming to the apartment. Since I am always cautious, ever since I was almost killed a few years ago in front of the Importanne Gallery shopping mall, when an unknown man tried to knife me from behind in broad daylight, I looked carefully to both sides of the sidewalk to see who was going there. There was no one to the left side, while to the right a stockily built man was headed in my direction, with some kind of bag hoisted over his left shoulder, in jeans, athletic shoes, an athletic jacket and a woollen cap on his head. He gave the impression of a person who had left a weightlifting club after an evening training session. Under my visor cap, from the corner of my eye, I looked at him and saw a smile directed at myself on his face. I thought for a second, putting the earpiece into my right ear, that the person was known to me.

Astonished assassin I too smiled at him and was about to greet him, as he appeared very well known to me. As I meet hundreds of people in my line of work, I thought I might have met him somewhere but had forgotten where, when and who it was. It would, then, be polite to greet him. At the moment I wanted to greet him, as the man was smiling the entire time, a black gun suddenly appeared in his right hand. It grasped then why I had not seen his right hand while he was walking towards me. He had kept that hand behind his back so that I might not see the gun, which he had held ready and cocked in it. The first thing that I noticed was that he had abruptly entered my trajectory with his left leg, not more than a metre and a half from me, and had abruptly turned the upper part of his torso towards me. I though for a moment that it was some kind of joke, dropping in a split second to the ground. At that moment I saw the black gun, pointed at my head. The next moment he fired towards my head, smiling sadistically and saying "Now I'm going to kill you". I will never in my life forget that smile of his. I saw a small flame shooting out of the gun's barrel at that moment, but there was no crack of a gunshot. In a second, thinking where he had hit me and wondering at the lack of pain, I jumped away from him, while he looked on in surprise. That one second of his wonder at not having hit me was enough for me to, walking backwards, get a metre away from him.

He came to his wits then and moved towards me a fired a second shot from the gun he had again pointed towards me. But for the second time in just three seconds I was again lucky. There was no second shot. His gun had jammed. While he, confused, began tinkering with the gun with his left hand and continued to walk towards me, looking me in the eye, I, not turning my back on him, managed to get to the other sidewalk. At the same time I began to pull out my own gun. By the time I had gotten to the sidewalk on the other side, I already had my own gun in my hand, at which point he grasped that I was bearing a firearm. It was at that moment that he stopped smiling, turned and began to leg it towards Krajiska Street. As my life was no longer in any immediate danger, I raised my gun in to the air a yelled out twice "Stop or I'll shoot!" I then fired the first shot into the air, and about two seconds later, after having repeated my warning, fired a second shot.

A red car on the corner of Ilica Street While I was still watching as he fled towards Krajiska Street, I took my phone and tried to contact the police at 0192. At the moment of the second shot a red automobile came between us and stopped at the corner of Ilica and Krajiska Streets. I saw two people in it of which I was not certain whether they were taking part in the assassination attempt. With my back to the wall, not knowing if there were others taking part in the assassination attempt, collaborating with the "smiling murderer", and afraid that someone might approach me from behind from the dark yard located opposite our building, I was shaken when I saw that I could not get through to the police.

I was called at that moment by my daughter, who had heard the shoots and had looked through the window and had seen me leaning with my back to the wall. "Call the police right away at 92. Someone has shot at daddy." I heard her scream and the phone coming down on the hook. The red automobile was still at the corner, the assassin had rounded the corner onto Krajiska Street, running past them. I was completely on my own standing between Primorska and Krajiska Street, with the dark yard behind me. I thought – what if there were accomplices in the red car and another team now appeared from Primorska Street, and I had nowhere to take cover. I looked to the left and right, expecting a new charge and a correction of the blunder made during the first attempt on my life. Considering how I might extract myself from this position I saw some two hundred metres further up the street in front of the residence of President Mesic, that one of the police officers on guard duty there was standing in the middle of Ilica and looking in my direction. Clearly, they had heard gunshots and were checking to see what was going on. At that moment I decided to move from my position and fleeing along the walls of the surrounding buildings, hurried toward them. All that was important to me was to cross Primorska Street, from which I expected at any moment to see a car approaching with the murderers.

Croatian sprint record When I, probably setting a new Croatian hundred metre sprint record, came to Primorska Street and saw that there was no one there, I breathed a sigh of relief and started shouting to the sentries "Call your colleagues, call your colleagues right away. They've tried to kill me." I knew then that I had survived the worst moment of my life. They immediately called for backup over their walkie-talkies.
Silencer concealed gunshot

I was called at that moment by my daughter who told me that she had notified the police and that they were on their way. Recovering from the shock, I returned my gun to the bag and breathed a sign of relief. Three and a half hours later a thorough examination of the crime scene had been carried out, and I went to bed, with the police guarding the door and the building. The weapon used in the shooting was found during the investigation. It was a silenced 9 mm Russian Makarov the assassin had thrown under a car parked on Krajiska Street while fleeing. The silencer explained why I had not heard the assassin's shot and why I had initially thought it was somebody's idea of a joke. The murderer's bullet had pierced the storefront window of the Cmok store and had lodged itself between the toys there where it was found the next day during a more detailed investigation. My shells were found on the other side of the street, and as far as I have learned from the police, there are several witnesses to the entire event, and several witnesses who saw the unknown assailant as he fled down Krajiska Street, by way of Dezeliceva Street towards the West Train Station. What preceded the brutal attempted murder?

Two weeks before these events, on Monday 31 March, after returning from work, my wife ordered me to bring her 100 thousand kuna in cash by tomorrow morning. I asked her what was the matter with her, and whether she had any idea how much money that was. I also asked her what she needed that much money for, but in very coarse language she only answered that that was no concern of mine. After that I fled to my room and locked myself in. She stood outside the door almost an hour and a half, insulting me in very coarse language. Before leaving she warned me that if I failed to brig the hundred thousand kuna by tomorrow morning that I would have a serious problem. Late that night, 41 minutes after midnight, she made my daughter send me a SMS message reading "Mom says that she needs 100 thousand kuna".

A week later, on Tuesday 8 April, I received a clear message from a person not previously known to me that my wife had a certain debt that I should settle, or else anything might happen to me. When I asked what the debt was for I was told that it was her debt to cocaine dealers she owed money to. Shocked, not believing what I was hearing, I tried to find out more, and I was told that she admitted to owing 17,000 kuna, but that they felt that the debt was 27,000 kuna, and that it would be best if I paid 30,000 kuna and that the entire matter would be dropped. I was warned then that it would be best that I pay up and resolve the problem, as these were unsavoury characters, who could use what my wife had revealed to them about me. At that I laughed and answered: "Let them publish it all, my daughter and I know the truth, and what my wife says does not surprise me in the least." I also told the person to tell the blackmailers that they had picked the wrong man and that I had no intention whatsoever of paying anyone off and to get away from my wife and leave her alone to get hospital treatment. After some ten minutes of our conversation that person told me not to court disaster and take the chance of notifying the police, as I could find myself in great danger, and repeated that they recommend that I pay up and get a big problem off my back. And as far as my wife was concerned, that she was beyond help, other than to be forced to sleep for a year and rid herself of that "white crap" and then try with medication to stabilise her health.

A second secretive visitor After the person had left I immediately placed a call to the State Attorney's Office and reported the threat and attempted extortion. The competent institutions have proof of the content of that conversation. The next morning, at eight o'clock, I was at my wife's doctor in the hospital to report what I had learned. I then went to the social welfare office, to the persons responsible for our family, and told them of the new circumstances that were, if the claims of the person that had visited me the evening before were true, shed an entirely new light on my wife's illness. I wanted then to go to the State Attorney's Office, but was told to come at about 2 pm, when the people in charge would be there. When I got back to the editorial office, I was notified that there was a woman who wished to speak to me. She called from a hidden number and told me she needed to speak to me right away.

Some ten minutes later she was in my editorial office. In my room she introduced herself, giving her full name and asking me for complete discretion, saying that both our lives were at stake. She told me that she was in a relationship with one of the top narcotics dealers in Croatia and that she wanted to warn me that she had heard some conversations from which she could easily conclude that I was in grave danger. She said openly that she was disgusted by what her partner was doing with his friends and that what they were doing to my family and me had gone way too far. And precisely because I was, completely innocent, being subjected to public defamation, she said, she had come to warn me who was behind the entire despicable story about my family and that, as a women, she could no longer look on as these villains manipulated my sick wife and wanted, through her, take from me everything I had achieved in my life. She told that she wanted above all to protect my wife, who needed to be saved from the claws of the mafia, which wanted only to use her and then discard her lije and old rag and lead her, in the end, to ruination. I was shocked with what this woman had told me in the space of three minutes, and which was entirely consistent with the extortion from the previous evening. After she had explained the motives of her visit, she told me that my wife was completely under the control of the narco-mafia, which had gotten her hooked on the drugs. She cited all of their names, saying she did so with a clear conscience, even though her darling was one of them, because what they had done to my wife was a crime towards my family. She told my that they had for some time now systematically taken money from my wife, how they had completely encircled her, and were controlling her even now, while she was in hospital.

Secret channels for the delivery of drugs "The basic motive behind all of the media attacks and pressure on you is to get to your money through a divorce in which, according to your wife, she would get half the company and property, which was allegedly, as she had bragged to them, quite large. It is clear to you that they would take it all from her very quickly, as she is entirely in their control, and her debt to them grows with each passing day. It is a classic method, which has functioned for years, to get into a person's confidence, get them hooked on drugs and suck the money out of them like a leach, right up to their ruination. Mr. Pukanic, you and your child, and in the end your wife, will end up with nothing. They are ready to do anything to get what they want. When I say anything, that means even murder, if necessary, that too is no problem." She then explained in detail by what channels and in what amounts the drugs were delivered to my, I hope soon former, wife. At the end she said she knew for sure that it was two people from this narcotics ring, giving me their names, that had taken my wife, completely "stoned", to attorney Darko Zadro, on 2 or 3 April, to initiate speedy divorce proceedings. In the words of this woman, they were in a hurry to get to the money, and they wanted to use the public pressure on me to get me to cave in and start paying the initial small blackmail for my wife's debt, and then, when they had established that I was an easy target, to take it all. Quite shocked at what I had heard I saw this brave woman out, who told me once more at the door that I should watch out for myself as these villains had no scruples. After I had seen her out I went to the State Attorney's Office, where I made my deposition. The competent authorities have proof of this second meeting. At about 7 pm I signed the criminal charges. Shots were fired at me four and a half hours later. Whether the charges I had filed are connected to the attempt on my life is something I am sure that the police will discover in their extensive investigation. The only thing I am interested in is that the entire truth of the events of the past dozen days be brought to light. If all those who took part in the execution, preparation and ordering of the attempt on my life are arrested, Croatia could breathe easier, and normal people could be freed of fear.

In the grips of drug dealers Just imagine how many anonymous and unknown people there are whose money is taken and whose families are destroyed by various kinds of extortion and threats from these kinds of drug dealers and criminal gangs. And these poor people have no one to turn to, nor do they have the kind of access to the public I have. And precisely because of my family, my daughter, who on the day of the attempted extortion celebrated her 17th birthday, I am ready to make the sacrifice and go all the way. If the state does not beat evil in my case and does not get this human filth of the streets, it will hardly get another chance soon. And the rule of law got this chance because of only a single detail, the fact that the killer was arrogant and wanted to massacre me in true gangster style with a single bullet to the head. All the while laughing. I hope that that smile will soon freeze on his face and on the faces of all those behind him.

A reconstruction on Ilica StreetWith the help of a photographer and Ivo Pukanic as a participant, Nacional has precisely reconstructed the events of Wednesday night, i.e. the attempt on the life of the CEO of the NCL Media Group. The reconstruction was done so that the photos could portray as clearly as possible how the attempt on the life of Ivo Pukanic took place. Unfortunately, the reconstruction also had to be carried out as a result of the ill-intentioned speculation frequent in the media according to which there was no attempted murder.
It is interesting that the media theories according to which Pukanic's deposition is refuted by the horizontal trajectory of the bullet that had been fired at his head are themselves refuted by the simplest of forensic techniques. A long straight object, a pencil in fact, was inserted into the bullet hole in the double glass of the storefront window on Ilica Street, and it was established that the bullet had pierced the glass at an angle.

Ivo Banac wants rid himself of Mirjana PukanicIvo Banac, the head of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, and Sanja Sarnavka, the head of the B.a.B.e. association held a press conference this afternoon where they vividly demonstrated that they do not know what to do with Mirjana Pukanic.

At the start of the conference Banac told reporters that he had that morning first spoken by phone with health minister Darko Milinovic. In that conversation Banac asked of Milinovic that he personally, or State Secretary Dorica Nikolic, issue a doctor's referral to admit Mirjana Pukanic for treatment. And since Milinovic turned down the request explaining that a minister does not issue referrals, Banac called him once again that day, and then sent him a memo in which he reiterated his request that a doctor's referral be issued for Mirjana Pukanic. In other words, not even 72 hours after she had, upon entering Banac's automobile, become the concern of him and the organisation he leads, they wish to rid themselves of her. And while Banac and some of the press had been severe in their criticism of the medical treatment of Mirjana Pukanic, just three days later they are requesting of the health minister that she immediately be admitted to a healthcare institution. "How come Mirjana Pukanic cannot get a doctor's referral now that she truly needs medical treatment?", pleaded Banac at the press conference. And in doing so demonstrated that he had grasped in the space of only three days what the family of Mirjana Pukanic, and the competent authorities had said from the start – that Mirjana Pukanic required hospital treatment. Or was Mirjana Pukanic in good health up to last Friday, but requires a doctor's treatment after three days spent in the company of Ivo Banac?

At the press conference held at the premises of the Croatian Helsinki Committee Ivo Banac also revealed to the public the fact that Mirjana Pukanic has been in a Zagreb hotel the past three days, and that the costs of her accommodation have been covered by friends of Mirjana Pukanic. At the same time, Banac and Sarnavka mentioned a "legal team" that is allegedly looking after the affairs of Mirjana Pukanic, but to a concrete question from reporters to state what attorneys make up the team, the heads of the CHC and B.a.B.e. gave mumbo-jumbo answers trying to cover up a very simple fact – that to this day they have not succeeded in finding a single good attorney willing to represent Mirjana Pukanic.

Since Mirjana Pukanic needs medical treatment, and her accommodation at the hotel is being covered by friends, the question arises: in what way then are Ivo Banac and Sanja Sarnavka helping at all?

The answer, unfortunately, is very clear: in no way at all. They got into the affair only to benefit their own media promotion, but so far they have in no way demonstrated their concrete assistance for an ailing person. What is more: besides not helping her, they are pushing false accusations and theories on the public in an attempt to shock it as much as possible, even though they should have, had they approached the problem of Mirjana Pukanic in a professional manner, tried to address her situation discreetly. Ivo Banac revealed an interesting detail at the press conference: the police officers that are investigating the circumstances surrounding the attempt on the life of her husband wished to speak with Mirjana Pukanic. In their contact with Banac these police officials even suggested that Mirjana Pukanic need not come to the police station, but that the questioning, because of the state in which Mirjana Pukanic is, could be done over the phone.

Just by that it is clear to anyone who knows anything at all about the way the police operate that Mirjana Pukanic is certainly not a suspect, as there has never been a case in which the police questioned a suspect over the phone. Ivo Banac and Sanja Sarnavka, however, had judged that a phone conversation with a police official would be too little of a media event, and have decided instead to create a circus – they made Mirjana Pukanic come to the police station in their company, for the sole reason of later being able to criticise the police for purportedly "harassing the poor woman".


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