Former assistant minister given 10-month suspended sentence after plea-bargain

NEWS 03.10.2022 13:49
Source: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL

Zagreb County Court has sentenced former assistant minister Ana Mandac to a suspended term of 10 months' imprisonment, with a probation period of three years, after she pleaded guilty to arranging government support for friends of former state secretary Josipa Rimac in the Windpark scam.

“The indictment panel confirmed the indictment against my client, the plea bargain was accepted and a verdict of 10 months’ imprisonment was delivered. My client will not serve that sentence unless she commits a new criminal offence within a period of three years,” Mandac’s defence attorney Zeljka Pokupec said on Monday.

Pokupec said that Mandac, who was an assistant to former construction and state assets minister Darko Horvat (HDZ), had expressed remorse and regretted the crime she was accused of in the Windpark scam.

Pokupec added that an investigation was still underway against Mandac and Horvat in a subsequently initiated case in which they are suspected of abuse of office and award of HRK 2.6 million in grants.

The former HDZ minister is suspected of having allocated money to enterprises in which he was personally interested. He also approved grants for businesses following direct requests or requests made with the mediation of Mandac by former minister Tomislav Tolusic, former deputy prime minister Boris Milosevic, the former head of Assisted Areas Directorate, Katica Miskovic, and former state secretary Velimir Zunac.

Pokupec added that it remains to be seen whether there will be plea bargains in that case.

New plea bargains in the scam

In addition to Mandac, a former policy officer at the Ministry of Justice, Ivana Fister, a former department head at the Ministry of Administration, Terezija Maric, and a former chief adviser at the Ministry of Defence, Nevenka Benic, also plea-bargained for their roles in the scam.

Fister was sentenced to a suspended term of eight months’ imprisonment, with a probation period of two years, Maric to a suspended term of 10 months with a probation period of three years, and Benic to a suspended term of seven months with a two-year period of probation.

Vjekoslav Tolnaj, a prosecutor for the anti-corruption office USKOK, said that about ten more plea bargains can be expected in this case.

He noted that an indictment could soon be expected in the case in which Rimac, among others, is suspected of securing preferential treatment for businesses involved in building wind parks.

Horvat was arrested after his former assistant Mandac, already a suspect in the Windpark scandal, told investigators that contentious grants were allocated contrary to the relevant criteria.

She also allegedly said that they had been warned by ministry services that the allocation of grants contrary to the relevant criteria was contrary to the law. Horvat claims that he only signed documents brought to him by Mandac.

That case also resulted in an investigation against former labour minister Josip Aladrovic, whom Uskok accuses of favouritism in two cases of recruitment, in 2018 and 2019, when he was the director of the Croatian Institute for Pension Insurance (HZMO).

The investigation into Aladrovic was expanded to include Zupanja Mayor Damir Juzbasic, a former HDZ member and now an independent candidate supported by the DP party.

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