Police raid homes of founder of Croatia’s biggest company
ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatian police on Monday raided the homes of the founder of the country’s biggest private company and his former aides amid an ongoing investigation over the retail giant’s financial collapse.
The state prosecutor’s office said the raids were part of the probe against 15 executives suspected of “criminal acts against the economy and fraud.” The statement said the raids followed a months-long probe.
Croatian media said that six people were detained in the raids. They say that the Agrokor founder, Ivica Todoric, was not in his luxurious Zagreb home, but in London.
Agrokor, the biggest retailer in the Balkans, is worth the equivalent of 15 percent of Croatia’s gross domestic product. It accumulated some $6.5 billion (5.8 billion euros) in debt, or six times its equity, while rapidly expanding operations in the region. Its biggest creditor was Russia’s Sberbank which wants 1.1 billion euros of the debt from the company or the government.
Croatia’s authorities have tried to bail out Agrokor to avert a ripple effect on the economy and save tens of thousands of jobs. Parliament has passed an emergency law to protect the state from big company failures.
Todoric was stripped of his managerial rights under the law, but formally remained Agrokor’s owner.
Todoric said in a statement published on his website Monday that the accusations of fraud against him and his associates were unfounded and “political.”
He added that he is preparing his defense, which “will shed light and bring to justice all those who have used criminal activities and unconstitutional laws to hide the biggest robbery of private property in modern Europe.”
“Had they found a single euro of misappropriated and embezzled money, I would already be in jail. But this simply isn’t true,” Todoric said.
He accused Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his ministers of being behind the alleged plot.
Plenkovic said he will not comment on the police investigation and added that the state will not take over the company because it does not want to pick up its debt.
The state-run HINA news agency says some 300 police officers took part in the early morning raids on several locations. The suspects reportedly face accusations of falsely presenting the company’s finances for achieving personal gains.