AIM: start



CORRUPTION IN THE COUNTRIES OF SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE

Croatia:

CORRUPTION, CROATIA'S TRAGEDY

Ivica Djikic (AIM Zagreb)

Greek tragedy is based on myth, and Croatian on corruption. That is what an aphorism says the author of which is a young software entrepreneur who very often encountered corruptible administration and political power wielders in his business transactions. According to his words in the past ten years in this country, he could not get a single major deal without setting aside a certain percentage for the holders of political power. These high state officials had the decisive influence on which enterprise would, for instance, get the job of construction of an important road or bridge; they decided who could and who could not privatise an enterprise for an insignificant amount of money, and then profoundly rob that enterprise, sack the workers and not answer for the crimes; they, the most prominent Croatian politicians, sold their silence about crimes for villas on the slopes of Sljeme, for vacations in fashionable resorts or for cash the amounts of which we shall probably never know.

When Yugoslavia started to dissolve, new Croatian authorities headed by Franjo Tudjman undertook a criminal operation of large proportions which greatly determined the nature of the Croat Democratic Union's (HDZ's) rule during ten years that followed: several ten owners of driving licences loaded tons of worthless Yugoslav dinars into trucks and set out to take them all over the former joint state and exchange them for foreign currency there. Every owner of a driving licence who was of age could have participated in this state operation of money laundry, but maximum loyalty to the regime was also expected from the drivers, and this loyalty was awarded by a certain percentage of the amount that was brought back to Zagreb after such plundering raids around Bosnia or Sandzak.

It is logical that the state which laid its initial economic stability on criminal foundations continued the construction of its statehood on these same foundations. The continuation brought the process of transformation and privatisation and its heroes were Miroslav Kutle, Luka Rajic, Josip Gucic and Ivica Todoric. Every one of these characters who sprang up from nowhere in the midst of the business elite had his own high patron in the political leadership: corrupt ministers, Tudjman's counselors or generals of Croatian army made it possible for their favourite tycoons to get hold of highly profitable enterprises, and in return - although there is sill no relevant evidence - they were awarded with massive commissions. On the other hand, members of the political leadership were awarded for interrupting police investigations against regime entrepreneurs who were intentionally destroying the economy in Croatia.

Former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman was undoubtedly personally involved in corruptionist activities: apart from approving of criminal operations of the authorised state plunderers the like of Miroslav Kutle who had to pay a certain percentage of each of his looting raids around Croatian devastated economy into the party cashbox, the late state leader made his biological descendants perhaps the richest men in this country. His son Stjepan is the owner of ten odd enterprises who made enormous profits thanks to business deals with the state; his daughter Nevenka also became rich by doing business with the state, and there are court proceedings in which she is indicted for unlawful mediation in deals contracted with state agencies by Zagreb entrepreneur Igor Knezevic in which she made about 700 thousand German marks; Tudjman's grandson Dejan Kosutic is the owner of Kaptol bank, whose business flourished while HDZ was in power.

'If we compare the corruptness of state administration and the corruption among high state officials, we must conclude that Croatia belongs among the countries with the lowest corruption rate of the administration, but according to the criterion of corruptibility of the most prominent bearers of political power it is among the first of the world', said recently in an interview Prof. Dr. Josip Kregar, author of National Strategy for the Struggle against Corruption, referring to the latest poll made by Gallup and Institute for the Investigation of Inter-Regional Crime of the United Nations on corruption in Croatia. This investigation also shows that the citizens are quite aware of the corruption that surrounds them: 89 per cent of the pollees from Zagreb believe that crime is present in their companies, and 77 per cent of the pollees think that corruption is the greatest obstacle to profitable business operation of the enterprises they are employed in. In answer to the question on the involvement of the bearers of power in corruption, 42 per cent of the questioned inhabitants of the Croatian capital answered that they were convinced that the authorities were corrupt. The investigation established that bribes were most frequent among policemen, customs officers and physicians, but only one per cent of the cases are reported to the authorities in charge.

The trial to the members of Bagaric's gang of criminals from Knezija in Zagreb shows that the local mafia had a well spread network of collaborators equally among junior clerks in state administration and among the most prominent members of Tudjman's regime. The mafia had its associates in police stations, in various departments of secret services and on lower levels of state institutions, but their collaborators were also in the Presidential Palace, holding ministerial posts or in generals' uniforms. Of course, quite a number of them were positioned in the judiciary.

'I have been in almost all Croatian prisons, and if necessary I am ready to testify on corruptness in the prison system on all levels, but also among lawyers, judges and members of the Amnesty Commission who partook in bribery and blackmail that resulted in false medical reports, dubious transfers to milder prisons with less strict security regulations, as well as illegal pardons of persons sentenced for severest crimes', an anonymous thirty-six year old said recently in a confession to Globus weekly, adding that he had spent 200 thousand German marks in prison on bribes in the past ten years. A testimony on corruption in the judiciary is the journalists' discovery that Ante Pocrnja, owner of the First Trade Savings Bank, was bribing for years a whole series of prominent officials of the judiciary, a judge of the Supreme Court inclusive.

All things considered, the level of corruption among the most prominent representatives of political authorities has significantly declined since HDZ is not in power, but without any doubt, corruption is still very present in the closed circle of the distribution of public offices and in the closed circle of the members of the ruling political caste who share privileges. Not even USKOK can fight this phenomenon, no matter how broad its authority may be. Uprooting of this phenomenon requires a profound change of the state of mind of power wielders, and for the time being it is unrealistic to expect that to happen soon.