WED, 10 FEB 1999 14:38:09 GMT
AIM Zagreb, 2 February, 1999
His name is Miroslav Kutle, he was born in Siroki Brijeg about forty years ago, he is a tycoon by trade, he has a debt of about one billion dollars and in the past cold days in January his name has become the metaphor of all the evil Tudjman's regime has done to Croatian citizens in the past eight years. The owner of the business empire known as Globus Group which is falling apart, has certainly been the most "popular" name in the beginning of 1999 in Croatia: newspapers - even those he owned until just recently - carry every day frantic attacks against the terminator from Herzegovina who has so far ruined about one hundred odd enterprises and a few ten thousand workers' lives; correspondents of state television from the provinces are presenting every detail of his life in all the central news programs; more and more Kutle's cheated labourers are marching and protesting in Zagreb streets every day, and ordinary people in trams are loudly swearing and cursing his family. The judiciary has given its own contribution to the general engrossment with Kutle, so he was taken a few days ago for interrogation about the plundering privatisation of Zagreb "Gradski podrum" (City wine cellar), then the privatisation fund took away Diona, Jadrantekstil and Kotex from him, and Tisak and Slobodna Dalmacija (the newspaper in which his tycoon's career has started) was taken away from him by court decisions.
But, all these stories and articles about Miroslav Kutle lack one very important fact: Kutle had not become the owner of one half of this country because he is a business genius nor because he was born in Siroki Brijeg, but because Tudjman's party had picked him in the name of "transformation and privatisation" to do the dirty and profitable job of draining national wealth into private pockets and those of the party in power. There is no doubt that Kutle - along with a series of other mobsters selected from the ranks of the ruling party - played a significant role in this, but he can by no means be said to be the main protagonist of that sad saga. The man who is entitled to the main role in this film - which is on in Croatia for eight long years - is Franjo Tudjman because the distorted economic logic pursuant which about 200 rich families were supposed to take over the entire Croatian economy was conceived by him.
The goal of everything that has happened to Kutle in the past few weeks is therefore nothing else but an attempt to beautify the disfigured face of Tudjman's regime in the year of the elections, the very same regime which has created Kutle. The whole story of confiscating companies from the favourite tycoon is intended to offer the nation an illusion that Kutle has nothing to do with the ruling HDZ and that for eight years he was plundering on his own account and the state authorities had not been aware of these thefts. Now that they have suddenly opened their eyes, when they have taken their heads out of the sand, their anti-criminal stuttering is not very convincing. And that the operation of beautifying and washing hands is not limited to Kutle is proved by the fact that the privatisation fund has confiscated Brodokomerc enterprise from Josip Gucic from Janjevo, and that former manager of ACI, Thomas Gozdecki, a who is by the way a longtime friend and close business associate Nevenka Tudjman, was taken to court in Rijeka.
The man who with his signature, handed Slobodna Dalmacija over to Miroslav Kutle in 1993 was Zlatko Matesa, the current prime minister of Croatia. Six years later, that same man "forced" Kutle to return Slobodna Dalmacija to the state which the tycoon has done with great pleasure. The fact that within the past six years every penny was sucked from the once respectable and profitable newspaper publishing company, that its master has burdened it with a debt of more than one hundred million marks, that nothing but the name used illegally by the state scoundrels has been left of the old Slobodna - all this did not concern Zlatko Matesa. The mentioned gentleman will not be interested either what is the situation like in Diona, Jadrantekstil, Koteks, Tisak... when Kutle returns them to the state. The only thing that matters is that these enterprises are taken away from Kutle, and servicing of his debts will be taken over by Croatian tax payers.
This brings us to the yet unregistered phenomenon in the history of business operation: the state gives Kutle successful and profitable companies as a gift, then he thoroughly robs them and brings them to the verge of bankruptcy, and in the last act of this great farce the state becomes once again the owner of the ruined companies. Nobody, of course, raises the question where several hundred million marks have gone which the wizard from Siroki Brijeg has looted from the enterprises he controlled for years. According to certain quite well founded indications, a big share of that money ended up in the party cashbox of HDZ, while the rest was distributed to private accounts in foreign banks. Therefore, Miroslav Kutle is not a scapegoat, and the operation of confiscating his wealth is, among other, aimed at legalizing an ordinary plunder. Kutle will be left without a single company but nobody will care to investigate the direction in which money from the nowadays devastated firms has flowed, because such an investigation might easily lead to a large number of people who are nowadays figuring as the pillars of this regime.
"I will talk when the time comes", said Kutle after leaving the district court in Zagreb where he was questioned, but there is plenty of reason to believe that the time the tycoon is talking about will never come. His statement is more likely to have been a warning to power wielders to be careful and not allow the current operation slip out of hand, or Kutle might say some things about the role of the prime minister Zlatko Matesa in "transformation" of Slobodna Dalmacija into a company owned by Kutle, he might elaborate to detail the influence Tudjman's internal political advisor Ivic Pasalic had on development of his, Kutle's empire; he would not need much effort to prove the involvement of the head Croatian policeman Ivan Penic in many of his privatisation undertakings; it would be extremely easy for him to reveal the role of the minister of privatisation Milan Kovac in his passion for collecting companies; he might decide to speak up about senseless business decisions of the just discharged head of the pension fund Damir Zoric whose only goal was to logistically support Kutle's operations, and he would quite certainly have to say a few words about the eight-year long practice of the police and the judiciary to pretend not to be aware of what was going on. And finally, he might let a word or two slip about Franjo Tudjman, the man without whose help he would never have been what he was.
Kutle's declaration that he would talk "when the time comes" did not cause sweating of only the listed personages. Every morning the author of the quoted sentence, when he wakes up, he first looks whose head lies on the pillow next to his. Every time when he realizes that it is not a horse's head, but that of his wife, Miroislav Kutle is a happy man.