Economy Minister Davor Filipovic said on Monday that he would request an extraordinary audit of the Ina energy company's gas business dating back to 2020.
Filipovic was speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting with Ina’s management at which, he said, he would ask for detailed explanations of the latest scandal in which anti-corruption investigators arrested a group of five suspects over fraudulent re-sale of natural gas delivered by Ina. Allegedly, the scam defrauded Ina of more than 1 billion kuna (€133 million).
The group includes one of Ina’s top executives, Damir Skugor, as wellas the head of the Croatian bar association, Josip Surjak. Skugor told investigators he was not guilty and that the gas was sold in line with the company’s standard business policy.
Investigators allege that the gas, bought from Ina for the subsidized price of €19.5 per MWh by a regional gas distributor in eastern Slavonia, ended up getting re-sold to third parties via a company called OMS controlled by Surjak and his business partner. The suspects allegedly bought gas for €19.5 per MWh and sold it for €210 per MWh and in doing so earned a profit of 848 million kuna (€113 million).
“The audit will also examine the role of Ina’s internal audit, audit committee, external audit and its management and supervisory boards,” Filipovic said. He said it was “very important” for the audit to examine all contracts, gas procurement and sale prices, and the conditions under which business partners signed those contracts with Ina. He congratulated the Finance Ministry, the police, the state attorney, and everyone involved in uncovering this affair.
As for questions raised by some about his responsibility as a former member of Ina’s supervisory board, Filipovic said he had only spent “a little over four months in that position,” state agency Hina reported.
“The contentious contract with the OMS company was signed two months before I was appointed to Ina’s supervisory board, and all this happened from mid-2020 onwards,” he said, adding that “it is known who the presidents and members of the supervisory and management boards at that time were.”
Asked if he had talked with CEO of Ina, Sandor Fasimon, Filipovic said he had talked with the “Croatian members of the supervisory and management boards.”
Croatian government owns around 45 percent of the company, with Hungary’s Mol oil company holding a 49-percent stake, with the rest owned by small shareholders.
He said he asked the management board’s Croatian members to convene an urgent meeting of the board, expected to be held on Wednesday, at which they would ask for additional explanations, analyses and documents to find out how something like this could happen.
Journalists noted that according to some reports, the public Plinara Istocne Slavonije gas distribution company which distributes gas in eastern Slavonia had warned the government about things not adding up, to no avail. Asked if he had any information about these events prior to Saturday’s operation, Filipovic said he did not.
He reiterated that the contentious contract with OMS was signed before his arrival in Ina. “Ina’s management board has to give many answers as to what happened with internal control and the internal audit,” he said, adding that the affair was uncovered and assets were blocked thanks to the tax authority’s independent money laundering division.